PFF's Top 101 of 2014: No. 8, Marshawn Lynch
There isn’t a running back in the NFL today that can overcome poor run blocking quite like Marshawn Lynch. The Seattle Seahawks were the 21st-ranked run-blocking team in 2014 and Lynch still averaged 4.7 yards per carry on 343 attempts including the playoffs. The average YPC on handoffs for the other six teams ranked between 18th-24th in our overall run blocking grades was only 4.15. Including the playoffs, Lynch averaged 1.6 yards before contact, tied for the lowest figure of any 1,000-yard running back this season. Few can do it all by themselves, but there was many a time this season that that was precisely the case for Lynch.
Going purely off the regular season, Lynch likely wouldn’t have cracked the Top 10. His production was just a shade higher than DeMarco Murray’s who checked in at 31st on our list. Lynch had an overall running grade of +19.6 for the regular season while Murray’s was +16.8. What really set Lynch apart was his historic postseason run. In the NFC championship game and the Super Bowl he combined for a +6.9 run grade and was, in my estimation, the MVP of the postseason. The only reason the game-ending interception was criticized so heavily was because everyone watching the game knew the ferocity with which Lynch was running at the time. The chance of Lynch being tackled short of the goal line twice in a row seemed impossible in the moment.
Best Game: NFC Championship Game vs. Green Bay (+4.7)
It’s rare to come away from a game feeling like a running back truly was the difference in the game, but that is exactly how I felt after watching ‘Beast Mode’ roll through the Packers. In a fourth quarter that at one point saw Seattle trailing 19-7, Lynch posted seven of his 14 broken tackles and earned a +2.3 running grade, capping it off with the 24-yard go-ahead touchdown below where he was unfazed by arm tackle after arm tackle.
Key Stat: 88 MTs in regular season were the most we’ve seen since we started grading
The rate at which Lynch breaks tackles is simply staggering. His 88 missed tackles were the most in the NFL by a margin of 21 over the next closest, Murray, and 13 higher than the previous PFF single-season record that Lynch himself held. When you include the postseason, the numbers are mind-boggling. In three playoff games, the Seahawks’ runner broke 29 more total tackles, the same number Jeremy Hill broke on 235 carries over the course of the entire season. For the year, he posted an utterly silly 104.2 Elusive Rating which is the highest single-season number we’ve seen.
His ability to break tackles and move piles allows the Seahawks to do so many different things as they know he’ll keep picking up small chunks of yardages even when the blocking breaks down. Seattle’s offensive linemen sustained their double teams at the line of scrimmage as long as any team I saw last year — the thought process being: they’d rather get Lynch one-on-one with a linebacker in a clean hole than block the linebacker, but have defensive lineman congesting the point of attack.
After finishing 10th a year ago, Lynch deserved a bump in his rank to reflect his bump in production. He continues to rewrite what we thought was possible from an elusiveness standpoint and only hope that someday we get to see what he can accomplish running behind an elite offensive line.
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