Seahawks’ Lynch is as good as ever, if not better

SEATTLE — As Marshawn Lynch approached the corner of the end zone, just a couple yards from a score that would help cement an eventual blowout victory, Giants cornerback Zack Bowman made what could politely be described as an unenthusiastic effort to keep the running back out of the end zone.

Bowman could have hit Lynch, though it’s highly unlikely that he would have done anything to prevent the 16-yard touchdown that was Lynch’s fourth score in Seattle’s 38-17 win.

Lynch’s friend and former teammate Michael Robinson wrote on Twitter that Bowman “Made a business decision,” and it was a decision we’ve seen plenty of defensive backs make over the years when it comes to getting between Lynch and his desired destination.

Sunday’s 140-yard, four-touchdown game, which was part of a team-record 350 rushing yards, was just the latest impressive effort from Lynch, who at 28 is showing no signs of slowing down. If anything, Lynch showed again against the Giants that he might be playing the best football of his career at an age when most running backs are slowing down. And on a day when quarterback Russell Wilson struggled, throwing two interceptions, Lynch also showed he is just as important to Seattle’s offense as ever.

“He’s our backbone, man,” said guard Alvin Bailey. “We know day in, day out that we can hand him the ball and each time he gets it, he’s only going to get better. He’s our backbone, man. I couldn’t imagine our offense without the way he runs the ball, because that’s our attitude. That’s what we all feed off of.”

Lynch was not available to comment after the game, having left the locker room before it opened to the media. But any teammate who was asked about him had the same opinion of the running back who has been the driving force of Seattle’s offense since coming here in a 2010 trade: he’s as good if not better than ever, and he’s as valuable to the offense as ever.

“Each year he’s gotten better since I’ve been here, so that’s been pretty amazing to see,” said fellow running back Robert Turbin. “To me he’s the best running back in the NFL.”

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has repeatedly said this year that Lynch looks the best he has since coming to Seattle. And left tackle Russell Okung says even now that Lynch isn’t done improving: “There’s a lot more in him. I’m excited to see where we’re going to go in the future with him.”

Even receivers, who in theory should want fewer handoffs to Lynch and more passes thrown their way, know that the Seahawks are at their best when Lynch is involved and productive.

“Marshawn Lynch is our engine,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “Everything runs through him.

“Man, he is unbelievable. Unbelievable, man. Any time he touches the ball, something magical happens, and he did it again today.”

There have been reports this season about a disconnect between Lynch and his coaches, and it has long been speculated that he may not see the final year of his contract for salary cap reasons. But Sunday’s game, and really the first nine games this season, both when Lynch has been heavily involved in the offense and just as significantly when he hasn’t, show that he is very much still the Seahawks’ present, regardless of what the future holds. Lynch’s uncertain future his no secret to him or his teammates — it was the main reason he held out at the start of training camp looking for more money this season, and his teammates openly talk about it.

“(Running back Christine Michael) and I understand the situation coming up at the end of the year — pretty sure you guys will be talking about that — it’ll be a huge deal, so we’re definitely continuing to work hard and take our opportunities in a game when they come to show (general manager John Schneider) and Pete (Carroll) that we can get it done too,” Turbin said.

But even though Lynch represents an $8.5 million salary cap hit, and even though he’ll be a 29-year-old running back with a ton of physical carries on his resume, and even though the Seahawks need to find money to pay some of their young players headed towards second contracts, most notably Wilson, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to envision this offense without Lynch in 2015. Or at least to envision this offense functioning at a high level without him.

And it isn’t just that Lynch is so hard to tackle. Or that he’s deceptively fast and nimble. Or that he’s an underrated pass catcher that makes him so important to the Seahawks. It’s also the identity he helps bring to Seattle’s offense.

“Marshawn’s one of my favorite people of all time,” center Max Unger said. “Just the way he does it on the field. It’s amazing. We want to just claw and fight for every yard he gets.

“Him pulling the pile and just fighting for yards every time he gets the ball, that’s huge. It’s really just amazing. He’s a freak. Beast mode.”

Herald Columnist John Boyle:

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