There are a number of different reasons, or even excuses if you may, as to why the Seattle Seahawks are 5-3 halfway through the season.
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The defense hasn’t stepped up, the team has been injured, the passion is gone, Russell Wilson isn’t playing well, the team chemistry is absent, take your pick.
Sure, those are all valid reasons for the Seahawks playing poorly through eight games this year, but the key to Seattle turning things around this season is unrelated to any of those concepts.
The key to Seattle making a late playoff push with eight games left is Marshawn Lynch.
Since arriving in Seattle in 2010, Lynch has been the staple of the offense.
Seahawks fans know this. The front office knows this. The coaching staff (or at least I think) knows this. The rest of the NFL knows this, too.
But this season, Lynch has been shut out of the Seahawks offense in favor of more passes and sweeps, instead of relying on the run game which helped bring them their first Super Bowl championship last year.
At the start of the year, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell seemed to have a balance figured out between Lynch and his explosive receiver Percy Harvin, who was absent most of last year.
Think back to the season opener against the Green Bay Packers — Lynch had 110 rushing yards, on 20 carries with a pair of touchdowns. Those were Beast Mode numbers Seahawks fans got used to seeing last year.
Oct 19, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) rushes for 13 yard during the first half against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Complimenting Lynch’s big game, Harvin had seven catches for 59 yards and four rushes for 41 yards. If you add in his return yardage on special teams, Harvin put together a 160 all-purpose yards performance.
There was nothing wrong with Seattle’s No. 1 receiver getting his share of targets, because Lynch also got his carries.
But, until Harvin was traded to the New York Jets in October, Bevell relied on Harvin too much in Seattle’s offense, making him the focus and forgetting about his All-Pro running back.
And even now that Harvin is gone, Lynch hasn’t really been able to break out in his role in the backfield — that is, until last week’s win over the Raiders.
Against Oakland, Lynch had 21 carries go for 67 yards and a couple of touchdowns.
But look at how those numbers compare to the rest of his season.
Through Week 9, Lynch has had more than 20 carries only three times this season. He has only rushed past the century mark once and he has only rushed for a touchdown in three games.
Though he is on pace for another 1,000 yard season, he hasn’t been the central focus of the Seahawks offense — and he should be.
For some reason, the passing game is seeing the most action in the offense.
Wilson, known for throwing few passes per game in his young career, has attempted at least 32 throws four times this season, including in each of the last three games.
Last year, Wilson attempted more than 30 passes four times all season.
“Though (Lynch) is on pace for another 1,000 yard season, he hasn’t been the central focus of the Seahawks offense — and he should be.” -Mitch Quesada
Because the focus of the offense was on getting Lynch the ball, not trying to make big plays through the air.
Lynch is the engine that keeps the offense going. His hard-hitting, bull-dozing style of play motivates the offense and the momentum of each of his runs is infectious.
Seattle certainly has a lot of other areas of improvement if they want to make it to the postseason to defend their Super Bowl title.
But all of it starts with Lynch.
The Raiders saw what happens when Lynch is the center of the offense when he carried Oakland’s defensive line on his back en route to a touchdown.
And Seattle knows that putting the ball in his hands is their best shot at winning. Or at least I think they do.
Let’s see what adjustments Seattle makes in the second half of the season. They are on pace to go 10-6 this year, but their next eight opponents have a combined 28-20 record.
They still have to play the Arizona Cardinals (7-1) and San Francisco 49ers (4-4) twice.
In four games against those teams last season, Lynch averaged 83 yards per game and scored four touchdowns on the ground.
Here’s hoping for a similar formula this second half of the season.
Lynch + the football = Seahawks win.