RENTON — Inside the huddle, the call was for “17 power,” a simple run play meant to get a handful of yards and to continue draining the clock.
And as Seattle Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson remembered on Wednesday, “We blocked it totally wrong.”
Marshawn Lynch got those few yards the Seahawks were hoping for when he got through the first wave of the New Orleans Saints defense. What transpired over the next 13 seconds after Lynch shed the first attempted tackle by Scott Shanle lives on as one of the greatest runs in NFL playoff history.
“It was probably shown for a good month on every type of highlight film,” New Orleans head coach Sean Payton said Wednesday. “It was an amazing run. There wasn’t enough Skittles in the stadium for him on that play.”
Lynch’s seismic touchdown run during an NFC divisional playoff game against New Orleans is back in the spotlight this week with the Seahawks and Saints meeting on Monday night for the first time since that January 2011 night.
It’s a run that’s been viewed more than 1 million times on YouTube, still draws smiles and gasps and has defined Lynch’s playing style. Whenever his “Beast Mode” nickname is mentioned, a highlight of that second down play in the fourth quarter that sealed the Seahawks’ 41-36 playoff upset follows.
Lynch broke eight tackles on his way to a 67-yard, fourth quarter touchdown that propelled a 7-9 Seahawks team into the second round of the playoffs. The moment was equal parts important and stunning, with a crowd reaction that created a seismic tremor recorded by a monitoring station near the stadium.
No wonder it’s affectionately still referred to as “The Beast Quake.”
“It was a great moment. I wasn’t different than the fans on that one. I kind of marveled at what happened,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said. “The timing of it, the impact on the game and kind of the clarity that this is now a game that we’ve got is what it felt like. … That was just an extraordinary moment on the football field. A great play, great run, great timing and he couldn’t have been more dramatic about pulling it off.”
The play never should have reached epic status. Shanle had the best shot at stopping the play for a short gain, only to see Lynch bounce away and step past an ankle tackle attempt by Will Smith.
About eight yards past the line of scrimmage, Remi Ayodele and Darren Sharper both slipped off Lynch as he accelerated for a first down. At midfield, Jabari Greer tried grabbing Lynch from behind around his arms, but slid all the way down to his feet and Lynch scampered away.
Then came the stiff-arm that current Oakland cornerback Tracy Porter won’t ever be able to erase. Porter first engaged Lynch around the Saints’ 38 but made the mistake of trying to tackle Lynch around the shoulders. Lynch’s stiff-arm was so vicious, he sent Porter sprawling five yards.
“It was just a little baby stiff-arm,” Lynch told NFL Films in 2011.
By that point, Lynch’s teammates had caught up. Wide receiver Mike Williams was downfield, as was guard Tyler Polumbus and tackle Sean Locklear. Even quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was there. Lynch avoided Alex Brown’s tackle attempt from behind at the 15, then cut back toward the middle of the field behind a block from Polumbus and finally stepped over Roman Harper’s flailing attempt at the goal line, leaping backward into the end zone.
“And it was a pretty typical run to begin, but then Marshawn broke that first tackle and kind of got free,” said Polumbus, now with Washington. “Before I knew it, I just kept running downfield because I heard the crowd roaring, and Marshawn was still on his feet. It was one of those plays that you’ll remember the rest of your life.”
For Hasselbeck, it was his final home game in a Seahawks uniform after a decade with the team. He made sure to find the ball in the midst of the celebration.
“All of a sudden he scored and the guys came down to celebrate and I was down there pointing at my family like ‘Can you believe this?’” Hasselbeck said. “I do remember that he spiked the ball and he let the ball go and I left the celebration and went to pick up the ball and gave it to him. I said, ‘I think you might want this.’ It was a great memory for me.”
That run was the capper to Lynch’s first season in Seattle and he’s had plenty more runs since where he shed tackles and refused to go down when it appeared his momentum was stopped. But his running has become more than just breaking tackles. He was a first-team All-Pro in 2012 and Lynch is working on a third straight 1,000-yard season.
But no one questions what the marquee moment of his career is so far.
“I was born in ‘83 and that was the greatest run of my lifetime that I’ve seen personally,” Robinson said. “You just love to see good things happen to the guy. He works so hard. He is symbolic of how we like to play aggressive, a hitter’s mentality, and strain and give all that you’ve got.”