I spent many years in the world of boxing, so you might say I have come across my share of athletes on the comeback trail. For some of them, the attempt was little more than a pipe dream; for only a few others did it seem as if they’d never been away.
So excuse me if I looked upon the return of Marshawn Lynch with a bit of skepticism. One had to ask oneself whether he could get himself into “game shape,” which is different than just good shape, and whether he could take the the punishment. Kind of like a fighter.
There’s another element too, which makes him different than the comebacking boxer, in that he has to get on the same page as everybody else. While it is true that there is a sense of continuity with Pete Carroll as head coach, there is a different offensive coordinator than the one he knew (Brian Schottenheimer) and probably some different lexicon to wrap his arms around.
But in the end, football is football. And the word coming out of the building this past week was that everybody felt Lynch was ready for just about anything.
Last week he had twelve carries for 34 yards and a touchdown against San Francisco. This Sunday he lines up in an NFL playoff game once again, as the Seahawks visit the Philadelphia Eagles in an NFC wild card contest that takes place at Lincoln Financial Field at 4:40 PM ET.
BetAnySports customers can watch the game on Fox and place wagers using the software provided through Sports Betting Ultra. And with some recent Philadelphia betting (some of it based on the news that Zach Ertz has been cleared to play), this game currently stands as a pick’em:
Philadelphia Eagles pick
Over 45 points -110
Under 45 points -110
Of course, Lynch doesn’t come into this thing with delusions of grandeur. He is answering the call of a desperate organization. You see, the Seahawks suddenly couldn’t find any of their running backs. Down went Rashaad Penny, last year’s first-rounder, who burned the Eagles for 129 yards (including a 58-yard TD). Down went Chris Carson, who finished fifth in the league in rushing yards (1230). And down went CJ Prosise, the Notre Dame product who backed them up.
Since Seattle likes to rely on the run game (they do it with the sixth-highest frequency of all NFL teams), you can probably see why this is important. Travis Homer, who had 62 yards in ten carries in last week’s loss to the Niners, has been pressed into extended service, so Lynch isn’t going to have to carry the entire burden. But despite his surname, Travis isn’t going to be the guy who looms as the home-run threat. Carroll and his staff are hoping Lynch can be that guy.
Naturally, no one has a right to expect the all-out “Beast Mode” we saw in the wild card game in 2010, when the Seahawks, who had won the NFC West with a 7-9 record, hosted the New Orleans Saints and were big underdogs. Lynch took a fourth-quarter handoff and broke eight tackles on the way to a spectacular 67-yard TD run that will live in highlight films forever. Mike Mayock, currently the Oakland Raiders’ general manager but then the color commentator for NBC, called it “as good an effort as I’ve ever seen from a running back.”
Truth be told, the Seahawks would probably be happy with enough effort whereby Lynch can pick up some key third downs, provide a nice complement for Homer and help keep Russell Wilson upright in passing situations. And allegedly he’s made enough progress that they are opening up the whole playbook to him this week, which means nothing would be off-limits.
“He had a really good week, it seemed like it was smooth for him all the way throughout. He felt really good throughout all the practices and all the reps he needed to take,” Carroll told reporters.
Said Schottenheimer, “He’s much more comfortable this week, so there’s things he can do from a pass protection standpoint.”
If Lynch’s comeback seems Ali-like to you, then perhaps Robert Turbin functions as his “Bundini Brown.” Turbin was a backfield mate of Lynch’s when the Seahawks won their only Super Bowl, and he was added to the roster at the same time.
Remember that even though they are missing defensive tackle Malik Jackson, the real injury issues for the Eagles exist on the offensive side, where they are missing a bunch of people. And Philadelphia hasn’t been bad at defending the run, on balance.
But also keep in mind that the Seahawks seem to find ways to make the ground game work, no matter who’s in there. Carson, for example, was drafted in the seventh round out of Oklahoma State, where he ran for 1076 yards in two seasons. Well, he has exceeded that total in each of his last two years in the NFL.
I know that that Seattle doesn’t defend tight ends well, and Philly throws that way more often than any NFL team. But I like Russell Wilson’s experience and ingenuity, not to mention the way the Seahawks have performed on the road (7-1 straight-up), which included an earlier victory where they held the banged-up Eagles to nine points.
And who knows – maybe Lynch has one more knockout blow left in him.
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