Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch went into "Beast Mode" on Saturday, and it couldn't have come at a better time. He carried Seattle to victory while setting a team record to solidify his place among the franchise's greats.
Lynch finished the Divisional round contest with 140 yards rushing and two touchdowns, breaking the Seahawks' playoff record of 132 yards which he previously shared with Shaun Alexander. It wasn't just a case of Lynch running for a lot of yards; he put the entire team and city on his back in a game that appeared to be slipping out of Seattle's hands.
Lynch's contributions were particularly important because Russell Wilson had the worst passing game of his young career. A combination of overwhelming defensive pressure by the Saints and the absence of Percy Harvin (forced out with a possible concussion) made the normally unflappable quarterback look fallible in the Seattle rain. Wilson ran and escaped the pass rush like he normally does, but he couldn't find receivers downfield and finished with only 103 yards passing.
The Seahawks needed a spark. They needed someone who could stop the bleeding of a fourth quarter that saw Drew Brees find both his rhythm and his receivers. Lynch was that player, and his defining moment came in the game's final minutes when he ran for 31 yards and a touchdown to help slow a comeback from the Saints and swing the momentum back toward Seattle.
We're accustomed to seeing impressive rushing performances week-in and week-out, but these games are decidedly more difficult to find in the postseason. This was Lynch's third playoff game with over 130 yards rushing; Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith achieved that feat only twice, according to ESPN Stats and Info, and only Terrell Davis (five) and Thurman Thomas (four) did it more times than Lynch has. That's good company to keep.
Without that last score, the result of the game -- and the NFC playoff picture -- could have been different. The 12th man was loud on Saturday, but it was the 11th man -- Marshawn Lynch -- who made the difference.