ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --As Marshawn Lynch goes, so go the Seahawks.
Since he joined the team five weeks into the 2010 season, he has played all but one game. In the 65 games (including playoffs) he's participated, the connection between his performance and that of the Seahawks is clear. Productive performance from Lynch turns an average ledger into one of the league's best -- the eighth-best record overall since he joined the team.
The Seahawks are …
- 11-1 when Lynch rushes for at least 120 yards, and 29-24 when he doesn't;
- 10-4 when he averages at least 5.5 yards per carry, and 30-21 when he doesn't;
- 9-0 when he scores at least two touchdowns and 28-10 when he scores at least once, and 12-15 when he doesn't score at all;
- 13-1 when he touches the football at least 25 times, and 27-24 when he doesn't, although this is misleading, as his touches are most often connected to the game situation.
The difference is stark in the postseason: when Lynch breaks the century mark in the playoffs, the Seahawks are undefeated, punctuated by his memorable performance in a wild-card stunner over the defending champion Saints there years ago. When he was held in check by the Bears a week later and the Falcons two years later, Seattle lost.
Lynch has recently earned more attention for his reticence at talking to the media, a marketable nickname ("Beast Mode") for which he owns licensing rights and his voracious consumption of Skittles than his actual running, and that's a shame. a
But he should be getting attention for his continued excellence -- and his persistent ability to avoid being brought down. According to ProFootballFocus.com, no running back created more missed tackles in 2013 than Lynch, who was credited with 75 on his 301 carries in the regular season. Lynch was second in the league in this statistic in 2011 and 2012, forcing over 50 missed tackles each season.
But the Broncos may be in position to stop Lynch. No one had more success at defusing Lynch in 2013 than the Carolina Panthers in Week 1, mostly because their defensive line, particularly their young tackles, was strong enough to win its share of one-on-one duels at the line of scrimmage.
Terrance Knighton may play an even bigger role in Super Bowl XLVIII than he did against the Patriots. Either he will draw double-teams, which frees up the linebackers to potentially have lanes they can fill, or he can break through to the backfield by winning one-on-ones. As long as Nate Irving, Danny Trevathan and Paris Lenon can be in position to make sound tackles, the Broncos' stout run defense could be the toughest that Lynch has seen in months.
But Lynch might be the toughest running back the Broncos have seen, as well, proving that the Broncos offense-vs.-Seahawks defense duel is not the only strength-vs.-strength matchup lurking on Groundhog Day.