SEATTLE — There was no mistaking the message echoing inside the Seahawks’ headquarters last week. Priority No. 1 was getting running back Marshawn Lynch more involved, and it probably isn’t a stretch to think priorities two, three and four hit on a similar theme.
“If we want to be described as a running, physical team,” fullback Michael Robinson said, “you’ve got to get the man going.”
Lynch responded from his worst game of the season last week to have his best in Seattle’s 27-24 overtime win against Tampa Bay. He rushed for a season-high 125 yards even though he missed a series in the first quarter because he was sick. He averaged six yards per carry even though his longest run was 14 yards.
He didn’t have any game-breaking highlights, but it was vintage Lynch: hard-fought yards that served as the backbone of Seattle’s offense.
All of Seattle’s players defer to Lynch as the heartbeat of the offense. In fact, after Lynch had just eight carries against St. Louis, it was two receivers — Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin — who were most outspoken about getting him the ball more.
That meant Seattle’s players heard an increased emphasis on running the ball all week. At practices, offensive line coach Tom Cable and the rest of the staff kept harping on linemen and tight ends to “run your feet.” They wanted the players to drive the guy they were blocking backward and finish blocks.
“There will be certain times in the week where we watch film as a whole offensive unit and it will be, ‘Hey, look at this coverage,’ ” tight end Luke Willson said. “And this week was really just, ‘Run your feet, run your feet.’ ”
The Seahawks also simplified their playbook by cutting back the number of running plays they normally use so they could focus on the ones that work best.
“We went back to our meat and potatoes,” Willson said.
Lynch carried the ball four times for 43 yards on Seattle’s first drive — nearly double what he rushed for against St. Louis. But he was at his best in overtime.
Seattle used eight plays (including Russell Wilson taking a knee) to set up the game-winning field goal. Lynch carried the ball on six of them.
“When he’s able to make the runs he did today and have the production he did,” Baldwin said, “we’re unstoppable.”
Lynch became frustrated against St. Louis when the Seahawks didn’t give him the ball on three straight plays near the goal line. He and coach Pete Carroll sat on the plane ride home together and both admitted their frustration.
In the fourth quarter, with Seattle on the Tampa Bay 3, Wilson faked a handoff to Lynch, then threw an interception. This time, Lynch quickly went up to Carroll and patted him on the backside a few times along the sideline.
The next drive, behind an offensive line that run blocked much better than a week ago, he propelled the Seahawks into field-goal range to win the game.
“He was a warrior out there,” Carroll said.