Marshawn Lynch once again had a tremendous season in 2013 and played a major role in the Seattle Seahawks' success. When Lynch and his team travel to take on the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, Lynch will have a target on his back.
It's no secret that he's one of the best backs in the league, and he is what keeps Seattle's offense running smoothly.
Over the past six games, quarterback Russell Wilson has struggled a bit, throwing just five touchdowns with three interceptions in that span. Despite this, the Seahawks are 4-2 in those games—largely because of Lynch's effectiveness with the ball in his hands.
Seattle is used to winning through Lynch's running, and he has done especially well in games where Wilson has 250 or fewer yards passing, as illustrated by the table below (includes playoffs).
|Yards||TDs||Avg. per carry||W-L|
|Pro Football Reference|
That's not to take away from the times the Seahawks defense bailed them out, but Lynch's running is what's carried Seattle's offense during the past few contests.
In just two playoff games, Lynch has run for 249 yards and a trio of touchdowns, with both games coming against a top-five defense.
His three touchdowns this postseason put him in the record books, as no other running back in NFL history has amassed more than two rushing touchdowns of 25 yards or more in the playoffs.
When Super Bowl Sunday comes around, Lynch will be facing the league's eighth-best rushing defense—a unit that has allowed a total of just 129 yards in the playoffs against eight different ball-carriers.
Lynch's combination of size and speed makes him a nightmare for opposing defenses, and he's proven that defensive rankings don't matter too much when it comes to his play.
There's no telling how well Wilson will do given his recent issues, and the offense will need to put up points in order to keep pace with the Broncos. More than that, the more the Seahawks can run the ball and drain the clock, the less time Peyton Manning is on the field throwing touchdowns.
Given Lynch's ability to run the ball and grind out yards, his hard running will soften up the Broncos defense and could open up some things for Wilson in the passing game or even in a read-option package.
Expect the 'Hawks to give the Broncos a heavy dose of Beast Mode early on in an effort to break them down and control the clock for as long as they can. Don't be surprised if Lynch breaks triple-digits rushing, although it will not come easily.
This could be an ugly, grind-it-out game for the Seahawks offense, but as long as it feeds the ball to Lynch, Seattle should be able to keep its offensive hinges greased.