The NFL is more fun when Marshawn Lynch is around.
He brings Skittles showers, amusingly pointless press conferences, and a general quirkiness that are all unique to Beast Mode. But none of it would matter much if Lynch wasn’t a tank on the football field. More specifically, his play in the postseason is what vaulted him into the national spotlight.
Lynch is top 10 in rushing yards and touchdowns in NFL playoff history. His December reunion with the Seattle Seahawks — with whom he’s made two Super Bowl appearances — means he’ll have an opportunity to add to those totals.
And perhaps, he’ll add another legendary moment to a career defined by big plays in important games. His reputation for doing so is why it’s still so puzzling that the Seahawks decided to throw near the goal line in Super Bowl 49 rather than ask Lynch to pick up one yard.
But enough about his most infamous playoff moment. Let’s celebrate the many highlights he’s had on the field instead. As it stands, these are the five finest postseason plays in Lynch‘s career — all of which came during his first stint in Seattle:
5. 27-yard touchdown vs. Washington (Jan. 6, 2013)
The game is best remembered as the one that broke quarterback Robert Griffin III. After winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, Griffin attempted to play through a knee injury against the Seahawks. Instead, he was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter after tearing both his ACL and LCL.
Those unfortunate circumstances overshadowed a huge game from Lynch. He rumbled to 132 rushing yards on 20 attempts, including a 27-yard touchdown that gave Seattle a lead with 7:20 left in the game.
Lynch juked cornerback DeAngelo Hall to the turf, then barreled through two more Washington defenders near the goal line. The touchdown proved to be the difference in the game and earned the Seahawks a spot in the Divisional Round.
4. A pair of touchdowns vs. Saints (Jan. 11, 2014)
The top-seeded Seahawks were too much for the Saints on both sides of the ball in 2014. The Seattle defense kept New Orleans to zero points through the first three quarters, and Lynch slowly chipped away at the Saints’ defense with 140 rushing yards on 28 attempts.
His first touchdown was a 15-yarder early in the second quarter. The second came with less than three minutes left in the game and the Seahawks leading 16-8. Getting to the end zone eliminated any shot at a New Orleans comeback and proved to be the nail in the coffin.
Lynch outran all the defenders to the edge and turned up the left sideline for a 31-yard touchdown. He was met about 10 yards from the end zone by cornerback Keenan Lewis, but Lynch cast him aside with ease.
It wasn’t nearly as devastating or explosive as another playoff run he had against the Saints, but we’ll get to that one later. This particular run against New Orleans propelled the Seahawks into the NFC Championship Game, and a few weeks later, Seattle won its first ever Super Bowl.
3. 24-yard touchdown to cap a comeback vs. Packers (Jan. 18, 2015)
The Seahawks trailed the Packers, 19-7, with less three minutes to go in the 2015 NFC Championship Game. Russell Wilson had thrown four interceptions, but still had a chance to bring the Seahawks back into contention for another trip to the Super Bowl.
Luckily for Wilson, he had Lynch there to help. First, he hit Lynch on a wheel route down the right sideline that was good for 26 yards and set the Seahawks up for a touchdown with 2:13 left in the game. Then, after Seattle recovered an onside kick, Lynch broke loose for a 24-yard touchdown that gave the Seahawks a lead with 1:25 left in the game.
Just like that, a 12-point deficit turned into a three-point lead in less than a minute. Green Bay kicked a field goal to tie, but the Seahawks got the win in overtime.
Lynch finished the game with 157 rushing yards, the most he’s ever had in a playoff game.
2. 40-yard touchdown vs. 49ers (Jan. 20, 2014)
For a brief stretch at the start of the last decade, the Seahawks and 49ers had the best rivalry in the NFL. San Francisco went to Super Bowl 47 and Seattle played in Super Bowls 48 and 49. While the beginning of this decade is primed for a revival of that divisional clash, recreating the magic of the 2014 NFC Championship Game will be tough.
Seattle struggled early against the 49ers’ defense and trailed 10-3 at halftime. The scoring didn’t really start for the Seahawks until Lynch cut back into a hole, juked a 49ers defender, and ran to the right pylon for a 40-yard touchdown early in the third quarter.
The 49ers hadn’t allowed a single 100-yard rusher that season until Lynch managed 109 yards against them in that game.
Richard Sherman eventually stole the spotlight by deflecting a pass in the end zone that was caught by Malcolm Smith for a game-ending interception. Sherman immediately followed that play by giving an explosive and memorable postgame interview.
The Seahawks advanced to Super Bowl 48, where they blew the doors off the Broncos in a 43-8 win. Getting there was largely thanks to Lynch becoming the first running back all season to find success against the 49ers.
1. “Beast Quake” vs. Saints (Jan. 8, 2011)
This isn’t just the best postseason run of Lynch’s career — it’s the best rush in playoff history, period.
First, let’s set the stage. The 2010 Seahawks were 28th in total offense, 27th in total defense, and ended the season with a 7-9 record. Somehow that was enough for a spot in the postseason, thanks to a putrid year for the NFC West. No team has ever made the NFL playoffs in its current format with a worse record.
The division title earned them a home game against the 11-5 Saints, who were sixth in total offense and fourth in total defense. The teams had met before back in Week 11 and New Orleans cruised to a 34-19 win.
So Seattle clinging to a 34-30 fourth-quarter lead over the Saints in the Wild Card Round was shocking. New Orleans desperately needed a stop for a chance to take the lead in the final minutes. The Seahawks were hoping for a couple first downs to close out the show. They got so much more.
BEAST. QUAKE.— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) January 8, 2019
Eight years ago today:pic.twitter.com/hr42EK8weD
Lynch broke two tackles around the line of scrimmage, two more a few yards later, and shirked one more tackle attempt about 15 yards downfield. Then he discarded Tracy Porter with a stiff arm so violent that the Saints cornerback flew from the 35-yard line to the 30. He dodged two more New Orleans defenders diving at his legs and dove into the end zone with some signature, crotch-grabbing flair.
Lynch had only been a member of the Seahawks for three months after a midseason trade from the Bills. While he scored six touchdowns in his first 12 games in Seattle, his 3.5 yards per carry weren’t much. He didn’t become a Seahawks fan favorite until his bulldozing run through the entire Saints defense on a 61-yard touchdown that capped the upset of the year.
The Saints are no strangers to heartbreaking losses in the playoffs, but Beast Quake still stands as an especially remarkable one. The moment was so wild that the raucous Seattle crowd’s reaction to the run actually caused a minor earthquake in the area. It’s a run from Lynch that won’t be topped.