Key matchup: New runner, old wall

Justin Forsett is getting his first real opportunity to prove himself as a starter against a stout run defense. Can the new guy show some explosiveness a proven wall of defenders?


The NFL is a game of opportunity. Prior to getting his shot in New England, Tom Brady was just a sixth-round quarterback with upside. Until he got his chance, he was nothing. Seattle's Justin Forsett finds himself in much the same position Sunday, making his attempt to be a productive runner against Pat and Kevin Williams this week's key matchup.

Forsett was a near-afterthought when the 2009 season began at training camp and he was anything but Number One with a bullet. A seventh-round pick in 2008, he was one of Seattle's final cuts and was claimed by the Colts. He spent three games in Indianapolis before being released and returned to Seattle. In 11 games, he returned 23 punts and seven kickoffs, but never had a rushing attempt. He was supposed to be the No. 3 guy behind Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett. But Duckett didn't make it to the regular season. On Aug. 25, he was cut and the Seahawks signed Edgerrin James, the former Cardinal who had been released after the team drafted Beanie Wells. Forsett was still No. 3, but that would change. Averaging just 2.7 yards on 46 carries with a season-long run of 10 yards, James was cut earlier this month. Forsett was No. 2 on the depth chart, but it still didn't look like he would see the field.

Nothing much had changed before last week. Through half the season, he had rushed 20 times for 123 yards and seen most his action as a third-down back – catching 16 passes for 140 yards. With one helmet to the chest of Jones, Forsett is getting his opportunity.

An injury to Jones on the road against Arizona thrust Forsett into the starting lineup and he responded with a huge game – rushing 17 times for 123 yards, caught five passes for 26 yards and scored a touchdown. For a player with precious little regular-season game film to go by, Forsett exploded on the scene last week. What made it more impressive was that he did it against a Cardinals defense that had consistently been rated at or near the top in run defense for much of the season.

However, while the Cardinals are dropping in the run defense rankings, the Vikings continue to rise. After being out of the top 10 for much of the season, the Vikings have improved to sixth. While opponents are still averaging an uncharacteristic 4.2 yards a rush, teams have been forced to abandon the run. Opposing teams have rushed 205 times and scored just twice, including quarterback scrambles that gain yardage. They have thrown 327 times and been sacked on 34 more. If Seattle wants to protect Matt Hasselbeck with its suspect offensive line, establishing the running game is going to be critical.

The Seahawks by design are a team that predominantly runs between the tackles. For years during this decade, the Seahawks were a pre-eminent running team. Shaun Alexander routinely wound up at or near the top of the rushing yardage list and guys like Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson were going to Pro Bowls. Those days are long since gone, but the formula for running success in Seattle has remained the same – run between the tackles and gain consistent yardage. Forsett is going to get his first NFL start Sunday with a chance to prove that not only wasn't last week a fluke, but that, for a team most believe will be 3-7 following Sunday's game, he should be given an opportunity to show the rest of the season that he can be the future of the Seattle running game.

The Vikings defense hasn't been pleased with its production against the run and they're facing a player whose NFL future could turn in a huge way if he can back up last week's performance with another big day. He is the irresistible force. The Williams Wall in the immovable object. That's why this is the key matchup Sunday.

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