Seattle joins three other teams leaning on their backup running backs for the Wild Card weekend. They're still 4-point favorites over the Vikings on Sunday, but the news that Lynch won't play this weekend changes things for the offense.
Seattle's been dealing with injured running backs all season. Lynch missed time earlier in the season, and he hasn't played since Week 10. After seeing Thomas Rawls emerge as a potential superstar in their system when Lynch went down, the Seahawks had to scramble to replace their rookie breakout player after he broke his ankle in Week 14.
They went to a familiar name: Christine Michael, who, at that point, had been on the street as a free agent after bouncing around to Dallas and Washington. After appearing in three games, there's some cautious optimism starting to emerge again that Michael will live up to his insane hype over the past few years.
The Seahawks couldn't get anything done on the ground in their Week 16 loss to the Rams, but this past week, against a very good Arizona defense, Michael had a few wow plays that gave Seattle fans some hope that he can shoulder a big load if Beast Mode can't immediately contribute in the bitter cold of Minnesota's outdoor stadium.
In that Week 17 win over Arizona, Michael had 102 yards on 17 carries, and per PFF's tracking, led all running backs last week, with a 171.3 elusive rating after forcing five missed tackles forced and averaging 5.82 yards per carry after contact.
He had his best run on the Seahawks' first drive. Seattle set up in formation that they use frequently, with extremely wide splits by their receivers, stretching the defense nearly to the sidelines on both sides. This makes it 7-on-7 in the middle of the field and it gets Seattle the numbers game on the ground that they really like.
Out of this formation, it is almost always a run play for the Seahawks, as the Cardinals' scouting and tape study surely indicated. So, they get aggressive with their run defense. As you can see, right before the snap, safety Tony Jefferson drops into the box on the defensive right side, hoping that Russell Wilson keeps it in this situation so they can catch him in the backfield for a loss.
Wilson's read here -- with defensive end Kareem Martin actually chasing Christine Michael right away -- should have been to keep it and try to run himself. That's exactly what the Cardinals were trying to get him to do. However, in this case, the Seahawks just simply have a run play called no read, and the handoff to C-Mike works like a charm.
He gets outside quickly, running right off of RT Garry Gilliam's ass, and busts through the second level like a runaway beer truck. Best of all, as he gets out into the open field, he protects the football with both arms. This set a tone for Seattle in that game.
Another play that piqued my interest was one where he showed a little bit of baby Beast Mode to him.
First of all, I like the quick bounce by Michael here. There's nothing doing in the middle of the field, so he gets outside quickly. When defensive back Justin Bethel looks to fill and be the force player on the outside, he gets a taste of what Seattle's run game wants to be all about. After dispatching Bethel, Michael picks up 12 yards.
A little later in the game, Seattle goes back to the super-wide-splits formation and in this case, the Cardinals play it well. At first.
Again, defensive end Kareem Martin crashes off the end with no regard for a Russell Wilson keeper. Since the Seahawks simply have a run play called here, it looks like it should be dead-to-rights. That's when C-Mike administers another deadly stiff arm and eludes the tackle, bouncing it back outside into what would've been Wilson's "keeper" lane, and he picks up a big first down.
It's still a small sample size with C-Mike, but it's encouraging nonetheless. Seattle's offense doesn't have to abandon the running game just because Lynch is out against the Vikings on Sunday. If C-Mike continues playing like he played against Arizona, the Seahawks may ask him to shoulder a pretty heavy load, even when Lynch does return. It's going to be interesting.