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Updated Monday, November 12, 2012 at 01:46 AM

Marshawn Lynch puts on another awe-inspiring performance

By Steve Kelley
Times staff columnist

This past July, when the Seahawks returned to camp, the offensive linemen found gifts in their lockers courtesy of running back Marshawn Lynch; expensive, glittering watches that tackle Breno Giacomini rated an 8 on a 1-to-10 scale of bling.

"I keep it in my room," Giacomini said. "I look at it. When I turn the light on in the morning it gets the day going. It's like the sunshine."

In the blissful aftermath of Sunday's 28-7 Seahawks' victory over the New York Jets, after Lynch ran for 124 of the toughest yards in football and, once again went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season, center Max Unger was asked what gift he would like from Lynch after this season.

Maybe a matching watch for a spouse or girlfriend? A vacation trip? A car? A condo?

"We gotta get him something, man," Unger said. "That guy makes so many yards on his own. You can't ask for more out of a running back. I can't tell you, the amount of hits (Lynch takes) and the difficulty of running the ball in the NFL and to have a guy like that, you've really, really, really got to support him."

The only way the Seahawks were going to lose this game was if they gave it to the Jets. And for a half, they tried. Quarterback Russell Wilson lost a fumble. Lynch lost one.

But in the second half, when the Hawks needed to control the clock and grind out a jaw-clenching win, they gave it to Lynch. He rushed for 85 yards on 13 carries in the second half.

Sidney Rice caught a pair of fourth-quarter TD passes. Golden Tate caught one touchdown pass and threw another, but Marshawn Lynch remained the undeniable heart and soul of this Seahawks' offense.

Lynch, 26, is the attention-getter who makes Wilson's play-fakes work. He is the big back who defenses have to honor. And he is a presence in the backfield, picking up blitzers, buying time for Wilson, keeping him upright.

Lynch is the definition of a north-south runner. He is the 2-yard run that he turns into an 8-yard gain. He is the epicenter of the quake. The unseen force in the middle of the mob, somehow moving a pile of 300-pounders. He is the reason that in this pass-first league, the Seahawks run first.

This was his fourth consecutive plus-100-yard rushing game and this is the second consecutive season he has rushed for more than 1,000 yards.

"With Marshawn, it starts with his attitude," backup running back and kick returner Leon Washington said. "When he comes to work, he comes to work. No one man can tackle him. He has this willingness to fight for the team. Even when he's banged up he still goes out there and lays it on the line. I'm telling you, if he stays healthy and keeps rolling, he can be one of the best backs the league has ever seen."

Turn on the television Sunday night and you get a lot of highlights from Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson, but not nearly enough of Lynch. His game isn't telegenic. His yards aren't pretty. He gets most of them between the tackles, gristle yards, yards as tough as tendons.

"I think people take for granted that he's going to run for 100 yards a game," left guard John Moffitt said. "But what they don't realize is that sometimes when we're not set up the best in our blocking schemes, he still makes yards off of it. When things aren't going exactly right, he's right there. You've got to appreciate that. The effort he gives and the way he runs, is really phenomenal.

"I'm not saying that he's not a highlight-film runner because he has runs that are amazing, but he's the guy who's going to get 5 yards every time. Four yards. Five yards. Four yards. He's always going forward and always driving his legs. It's really awesome the way he plays."

Highlight runs? You want highlight runs? Early in the fourth quarter, the score still 14-7, Lynch charges into the line, squirts through and gains 17 yards down to the Jets' 31. Later in the quarter, second-and-two at the New York 23, he pushes behind left tackle for 15 yards.

Trying to tackle Lynch for four quarters is like taking straight left jabs in the mouth for 15 rounds.

"You know what you're going to get when he comes to the field," Washington said. "You know he's going to bring that toughness. He's going to hit somebody. He's going to bang around. I'm just glad he's on our team."

For offensive linemen, there is no quitting when Lynch is running. They have to sustain their blocks longer than they do with other backs. They have to help push the pile, because they never know when he might burst free and turn a short gain into a game-breaker.

"We love the way he runs," Giacomini said. "We love that stuff, man. It's pretty cool to block for that guy."

It's pretty cool to watch.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com.


JOHN LOK / THE SEATTLE TIMES
As he did numerous times, Seattle's Marshawn Lynch breaks away from New York defenders on his way to 124 yards.




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