Marshawn Lynch has been the most discussed player during the week of the 2015 Super Bowl, because of his refusal to talk to the media. The running back is creating headlines off the field, but his play on Sunday will be one of the biggest keys when the Seattle Seahawks try to beat the New England Patriots.
In the regular season, the Seahawks led all NFL teams with 172.6 rushing yards per game, while the Patriots ranked just 18th with 107.9 yards per contest. A large portion Seattle’s yards, though, came from Russell Wilson, who led all quarterbacks with 849 yards on the ground.
What kind of success can each team’s running backs have in the 2015 Super Bowl?
Even if Wilson doesn’t run the ball, Seattle could have a big day on the ground. Lynch ranked fourth in the league with 1,306 rushing yards. No running back scored more than his 13 rushing touchdowns.
Lynch has had his share of poor performances, though they haven’t occurred very often. His worst game this season came in a win over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12, as he ran 15 times for just 39 yards. Six weeks earlier, he totaled just 53 yards on 18 rushing attempts against the St. Louis Rams. He’s averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry in five games, though he’s averaging 96 yards on 5.7 yards per carry in his last five games.
It won’t be easy for Lynch to put up big numbers against the No.9 rushing defense in football, but the Patriots have struggled, at times, against strong running teams. They let the Baltimore Ravens run for 136 yards on 4.9 yards per carry in the divisional playoff round. The New York Jets were the best rushing team New England faced, and they allowed 323 combined rushing yards in those two games.
Seattle’s offensive line has played well, especially down the stretch. When they can’t open up holes for Lynch, though, the running back can often break tackles and find a way to gain yards despite contact behind the line of scrimmage.
New England has struggled to find a consistent running game all season long. Bill Belichick's squad doesn’t have a mobile quarterback and Stevan Ridley suffered a season-ending injury in Week 6, leaving the Patriots without a player that carried the ball even 100 times for them in 2014. Jonas Grady led the team with 412 yards on the ground, and 201 of those yards came in Week 11.
Despite all the uncertainty the Patriots have had in their backfield, they have the ability to have a big game on the ground. LeGarrette Blount, who was rereleased by the Pittsburgh Steelers, has been the team’s top rusher since Nov. 23. He was terrific in the AFC Championship, rushing 30 times for 148 yards, though he ran just three times for one yard in the team’s first playoff game.
The Seahawks’ run defense has proven to be one of the best in the NFL. They ranked third in the regular season, allowing 81.5 rushing yards per game. In two postseason games, the defense allowed 267 rushing yards on 60 carries.
In their losses, the Patriots’ offensive line has struggled, especially when trying to protect Tom Brady. The unit is experienced, though, other than rookie center Bryan Stork, who could sit out the Super Bowl with an injury.
Seattle. The Seahawks clearly have the advantage, with a much better run defense and one of the best running backs in the league. New England is favored to win the Super Bowl, but Seattle should be able to control the ground game.