There is no question what type of team Pete Carroll wants the Seahawks to be. Listen to one of his press conferences and you're likely to hear him preach toughness and physicality.
"Because you're always going to play tough defense, hopefully," Carroll said in June. "We're always going to be tough in special teams. But you can be other than that on offense if you don't run the football. We want to be a physical, aggressive, tough, get-after-you football team. And that's where we can send the biggest message about that commitment to that."
No player on Seattle's roster embodies that tough, physical mentality better than Marshawn Lynch, one of the most physical runners in the NFL. So physical, in fact, he's nicknamed "Beast Mode," and he didn't earn that moniker by running out of bounds. Not only does Lynch welcome contact, he often initiates it, running into and through defenders. Lynch forced 58 missed tackles last season, the second most in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
For some teams, Lynch's physical style is too much to handle. He carves through defenses and runs through tackles as defenders haplessly dive at his legs, not wanting to be the next Beast Mode victim if they attempt to go high, like Tracy Porter did in the 2011 playoffs.
If there is one defense that can match Lynch's toughness, it may be the San Francisco 49ers. Seattle and San Francisco are considered to be two of the most physical teams in the NFL, and it shows in the two meetings each year. Not many things can drown out the noise of Seattle's crowd, but the sound of pads popping on every play may do just that when Seattle hosts San Francisco on Sunday.
This image from last season is a great example of the matchup between Lynch and the 49ers defense. Neither player shies away from contact and both get up thinking they won the battle, via Field Gulls:
Since joining the Seahawks, Lynch has faced the 49ers five times with each side jostling for the upper hand. Lynch didn't top 33 yards in either of his first two games against San Francisco. He's had more success in his last three, averaging 107 rushing yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry. The 49ers defense has allowed 10 rushing touchdowns over the last 32 games. Lynch has two of them.
Because the Seahawks challenge San Francisco physically, Seattle's had more success running the ball against the 49ers than most teams. Here's a closer look at how the Seahawks have fared against San Francisco in the last two years, compared to the rest of the league:
|Matchups since 2011||Attempts||Yards||YPC||TD||YPG|
|49ers vs. Seattle||116||500||4.3||2||125.0|
|49ers vs. rest of NFL||644||2,243||3.5||8||
The 49ers have allowed just five 100-yard rushers in their last 32 regular-season games, and Lynch accounts for three of those performances.
San Francisco's rush defense got off to a good start in Week 1, limiting Green Bay to 63 rushing yards on 3.3 yards per carry. Lynch was bottled up by Carolina, gaining 43 yards and averaging 2.5 YPC. Who will have the upper hand this week? We'll find out when pads start popping at 8:30 p.m. ET on Sunday Night Football.