SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch's best game this season came against the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 22, when he ran for 122 yards on 27 carries. That stat line is typical of his games against the red and gold.
However, while battling calf, hamstring and abdominal injuries, Lynch has averaged just 3.8 yards per carry while missing two games this season. His stat lines for the year, across the board, are the lowest they've been since he was traded from Buffalo to Seattle in 2010.
And at 29-years-old, he's approaching the age many running backs begin to see drastic downturns in their respective careers. Life as an NFL bell cow isn't easy, particularly with Lynch playing in eight playoff games over the last three seasons, where he netted 164 carries in addition to his heavy regular season workload.
Lynch hasn't had the type of season he's accustomed to, which can be directly correlated to the Seahawks' sub-standard 4-5 record. In last Sunday's loss to the Cardinals, Lynch had just eight carries for 42 yards, but he did score a touchdown. To be sure, Arizona jumped out to a 22-7 halftime lead, forcing Seattle to play from behind and veer away from its typical ball-control offense.
"I don't know. He looked pretty good when we played him," 49ers defensive coordinator Eric Mangini said Thursday. "His numbers, I mean, that could be a lot of different things. I don't know exactly what it is, but in terms of the player that he is, he's hard to deal with and he brings an attitude to running the football that not all backs have."
Despite Lynch's statistics, the Seahawks still rank fourth in the NFL averaging 136.8 yards rushing per game, in part because Russell Wilson is second in rushing among quarterbacks with 355 yards, trailing Cam Newton and his 366 yards.
If the 49ers are going to pull the massive upset Sunday - they are 12.5-point underdogs - they will need a second-straight strong performance from their defense.
In the 17-16 win over the Falcons preceding the recent bye week, San Francisco allowed just 17 yards rushing, including 12 yards on 12 carries to the league's then-leading rusher Devonta Freeman.
"A little different package between the two guys (Freeman and Lynch)," Mangini said. "A little different running game with the two schemes, but that was a tough group that we played last week."
The 49ers defense was so effective against the Falcons' running game, Atlanta's head coach Dan Quinn elected to kick a field goal from the 1-yard line with 3:00 to decrease the deficit to one, instead of going for a go-ahead touchdown on fourth down.
But a repeat performance coming off the bye week, particularly against Lynch, is no sure thing. In 11 games against the 49ers, Lynch has 1,004 yards rushing on 221 carries and seven touchdowns, the second most against any opponent.
Chris Biderman is the Editor-in-Chief of Niners Digest and covers the 49ers from their headquarters in Santa Clara. Chris has been writing about the team since the spring of 2013. The Ohio State alum received his Journalism degree in 2011 and has been working in sports media since 2008. Chris, a Santa Rosa, Calif. native, is also a contributor to the Associated Press covering sports throughout the Bay Area. You can follow Chris on Twitter here.
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