What a difference a few weeks makes. Four weeks ago at the midseason mark, Marshawn Lynch was not making nearly the impact the Raiders needed. Some of that wasn’t his fault, but the fact still remained that he wasn’t making the difference for a team that needed him to be the centerpiece of a strong running game.
At the midway point, Lynch was just coming off a suspension for making contact with an official which had him ejected early in the game against the Chiefs after just two carries. He would watch his team lose in Buffalo the following week. So, essentially he was lost for two games.
As far as the parts that weren’t Lynch’s doing, he carried the ball 70 times over the first six games. That’s just 11.7 carries per game. It’s hard to make a major impact with so few carries. His totals over that time were for 257 yards (3.67 yards per carry) with two touchdowns.
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio has seen a different player since Marshawn returned from his suspension. And so too has everyone else.
“When he came back from the suspension, I’ve seen a little more pep in the step,” said Del Rio Sunday. “A little more…I can’t speak for him, I just know what I see. It’s been good. I welcome it, and we’re taking full advantage of it.”
In his four games since then, Marshawn has run 68 times for 292 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and four touchdowns along with 8 catches for 79 yards. And his numbers have gone up each week, culminating in his best game as a Raider on Sunday, running for 101 yards and a TD with 121 yards from scrimmage.
“He’s a do-it-all guy. Run the ball, catch it out the backfield, block,” said Bruce Irvin, a teammate of Marshawn’s going back to his Seattle days. “He’s finally getting his legs back underneath him and its showing. You can tell.”
Two big plays in Sunday’s game exhibited just what Irvin is referring to. The first was Marshawn bursting through on the second series for a 51-yard touchdown run. The second was early in the 4th quarter when he took a dump pass, broke two tackles and drove through defenders for a 21-yard gain.
“He’s getting stronger as the season goes on with more carries, he is just getting stronger,” fellow running back DeAndre Washington said of Lynch. “It’s hard to tackle that man for four quarters, you know what I am saying? He is going to wear you down regardless if he is getting two yards or the 50-yarder like he busted today. He is going to wear guys down and at this point in the season we are really going to need him.”
If his trajectory is any indication, we still haven’t seen the best of Marshawn. He’s peaking at the right time, just as the Raiders’ season was at a crossroads. They had inched into top-ten draft pick territory, but have put themselves squarely in the playoff race, winning three of their last four games.
Now back at .500 and tied for the lead in the AFC West, they will travel to Kansas City in a crucial match-up with the Chiefs next week. Derek Carr will need Beast Mode if he hopes to get his first win in Kansas City and keep alive their hopes of winning the division.
“We talk about it all the time, run game is my best friend,” Carr said postgame Sunday. “Whenever we can just get that going and have the run game rolling like that – any quarterback loves that. . . Marshawn is just taking over. I think today he had 100 yards, which is awesome. Anytime you can do that, the ball is in your hands. Anytime you can run the ball efficiently, you’re moving the chain – so that just helps us in the pass game element of it.”
The final quarter of the season is upon us and the Raiders have a clean slate and a strong Marshawn Lynch looking more and more like Beast Mode every week.