By Brady Henderson
Marshawn Lynch ran all over New Orleans’ defense and then into the Seahawks’ record books.
Seattle’s running back set a franchise postseason record with 140 yards to go along with two touchdowns, including a 31-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter that drew at least one comparison to that famous moment he had against the Saints three years ago. This one was about half as long and featured only one broken tackle, but it did help seal a playoff win for the Seahawks.
Seattle is moving on to the NFC Championship Game, and Lynch’s big day is a big reason why.
“He just continues to crank it out for us,” coach Pete Carroll said of Lynch. “You just have to love his last touchdown run, though, that was maybe Beast Mode II, I don’t know. But it was a cool way to end that game and give us the chance we needed to put it away.”
Lynch did most of the heavy lifting for an offense that gained just 103 yards through the air but has seemed to rediscover the running game that was somewhat missing over the final month and a half of the regular season. Lynch’s 140 yards on 28 carries Saturday marked the first time since Week 10 he’s hit triple digits, ending a six-game streak in which he averaged 64 yards and topped 4 yards per carry once.
The running game is already the focal point of Seattle’s offense, and the mix of rain and wind that came and went throughout Saturday’s game made it an even bigger priority. That was still the case when the Seahawks gained just 19 yards on their first seven carries.
“Body blows, body blows,” fullback Michael Robinson said in reference to the early rushes that produced only minimal – and sometimes negative – yardage before Lynch ran 15 yards for Seattle’s first touchdown.
“That’s how we look at the run game – the (1- and 2-yard runs) will eventually get going,” Robinson said. “We understand our run game against this team. We just felt like we could be a little bit more physical than those guys since they do so much, they run so many multiple fronts.”
Wilson, Baldwin beat Saints’ blitz again
The Saints are known for bringing all-out blitzes that leave them with no deep defender, something Seattle took advantage of when the two teams met in December.
Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin connected for a 24-yard gain in the fourth quarter to set up Seattle’s final score. (AP)
It’s referred to a zero coverage, and while the Saints didn’t do it as often Saturday as they did the first meeting, Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin still made them pay when they did. The quarterback and receiver had connected for a 52-yard gain back in Week 13, and they hooked up again Saturday when the Saints came after Wilson on a third-and-3 play in the fourth quarter with Seattle clinging to a 16-8 lead.
Wilson recognized what the Saints were doing before the snap, checked to a different play and then hit Baldwin for a 24-yard gain down the sideline. The catch was upheld upon review, and Seattle scored one play later with Lynch’s second touchdown run.
“We got a great look and it was an incredibly perfect throw and a great job of making the catch,” Carroll said. “It’s a catch that Doug has made all year. He’s made those big catches on the sidelines, and it couldn’t have been more clutch. It was awesome to see him come through, both those guys.”
Graham a non-factor again
The approach Seattle took to defending Jimmy Graham was a bit different this time around.
More coverage of Seattle’s divisional-round win over New Orleans at CenturyLink Field.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | Postgame interviews||• O’Neil: What We Learned||• Huard: Breaking down Lynch’s first touchdown||• Henderson: Harvin roughed up | Carroll’s take||• Stecker: Saints’ offense meets its match again||• O’Neil: Irvin, Graham square off during warmups||• O’Neil: Another nail-biting finish for Seahawks|
The result was the same.
The Saints’ All-Pro tight end caught just one pass for 8 yards, and it didn’t come until late in the fourth quarter. K.J. Wright was largely responsible for shutting down Graham in the first meeting – holding him to 42 yards on three catches – but with the starting linebacker out because of a foot injury, it took a group effort to do it again Saturday.
“We played a lot of zone. In our man-to-man stuff, different guys covered him,” Carroll said. “All of that was just to give him a variety of stuff. Remember last time, K.J. did such a good job on him. We thought we needed to adapt a little bit without his work out there.”
• Rookie Michael Bowie started at left guard in place of James Carpenter, who was a healthy scratch.
“That was a classic competitive opportunity,” Carroll said. “We’ve been looking at our guys and how they’ve been playing, and he’s been playing. He played really well.”
• The announced attendance of 68,388 was a CenturyLink Field record, breaking by one the previous mark set in the earlier meeting with New Orleans.
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.