Lynch has Seahawks’ running game thawing at right time
By Jim Moore Special to the Sun-Times January 14, 2011 11:38PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
SEATTLE — The Seahawks were 31st in the NFL in rushing this season, averaging 89 yards a game. But they’re encouraged by Marshawn Lynch’s first 100-yard game last Saturday against the New Orleans Saints.
Lynch rushed for 131 yards on 19 carries, including a game-clinching 67-yard touchdown run that many here are calling the best play in Seahawks history.
When the Seahawks beat the St. Louis Rams the week before to win the NFC West, Lynch and Justin Forsett were the most prominent ball carriers in a 142-yard rushing performance, of which 119 came in the second half.
Until those two outbursts, the Seahawks had one of their better rushing efforts against the Bears on Oct. 17 when Forsett and Lynch, in his first game since being acquired from the Buffalo Bills, combined to run for 111 yards.
Asked about the importance of a running game in the playoffs in cold weather, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said, ‘‘This is one of those opportunities — I don’t know what the climate’s going to be like, the winds and all that stuff and how it would affect the throwing game — but this is why you always want that aspect of your game in order.
‘‘[The Bears] are awesome at playing run defense, but it’s a factor that we would like to have in our favor.’’
Starting middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who suffered a concussion against the Saints, participated in a non-contact practice Friday morning before the Seahawks flew to Chicago. But Carroll said his availability isn’t certain because he hasn’t officially been cleared to play.
Though Carroll said it will be a game-time decision, most observers here believe Tatupu will play. Carroll is optimistic, too.
‘‘He was fine today,’’ Carroll said, ‘‘and the signs are really good that he’ll play.’’
Watch out for Leon
Talk in Seattle keeps returning to Devin Hester and whether the Seahawks should punt to him.
On Friday, Carroll said: ‘‘We’re kicking the football, and he’s going to get it.’’ The day before, punter Jon Ryan said he would try to limit the amount of field Hester would have to work with by angling his punts toward the sidelines.
The Bears should have similar concerns about the Seahawks’ Leon Washington, a game-changer on kickoff and punt returns. Washington returned three kickoffs for touchdowns in the regular season and nearly had another off a punt return against Carolina before he was tripped up at the Panthers’ 1-yard line.
With all the talk about Hester, Washington may be more motivated than usual. The Seahawks acquired Washington, who broke his leg last year, in an offseason deal with the New York Jets.
‘‘Leon’s a great competitor,’’ Carroll said. ‘‘There isn’t a guy on the football team who cherishes his opportunities more than Leon. He tries to maximize every chance he gets.
‘‘I know he respects the work that Devin’s done. He thinks that he’s a great football player. But knowing Leon, there’s nothing more that he would like than to be a big factor in this game. It’s something to watch, for sure.’’