Key matchup: Seahawks RBs Lynch, Turbin vs. Niners run defense

Posted Oct. 16, 2012 @ 3:45 p.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

In today’s “Key Matchup,” PFW’s Dan Arkush focuses on Seahawks RBs Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin vs. the Niners' run defense in the Week Seven Thursday-night game in San Francisco.

Seahawks RBs Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin vs. Niners run defense

With only four days to recuperate, the stamina of both the Seahawks and Niners will be severely tested in a key divisional battle on a national stage Thursday evening. In short, coming off a short work week, the strongest team is likely to survive.

Last Sunday, neither the Seahawks’ running backs nor the Niners’ run defense had anything near their strongest efforts, particularly San Francisco’s run “D,” which slipped from seventh to ninth in rushing yards following an ugly 26-3 loss to the Giants in which they allowed the Giants 149 yards rushing and looked very uncharacteristically worn out by game’s end. Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw cranked out 116 of those yards, including the first rushing TD allowed by the Niners at home in 12 games.

Lynch still leads the NFC in rushing (he’s third in the league behind Jamaal Charles and Arian Foster) despite managing only 41 yards on 15 carries in the Seahawks’ stirring 24-23 come-from-behind victory over the Patriots, who made a point of keying on Lynch and forcing rookie QB Russell Wilson to focus more on passing the ball. Averaging 4.3 yards per carry, Lynch has scored two TDs and had rushed for at least 85 yards in every game before the New England game.

Lynch had mixed success vs. the Niners last season. In a Week One 33-17 loss in San Francisco, he had only 33 yards on 13 carries at a time when the Seattle offense was scuffling to find an identity. Lynch was far more effective in the Week 16 19-17 loss in Seattle. Having become the team’s undisputed workhorse in an offense that rushed for over 100 yards in seven of the last eight games, his 21-107-1 performance was the best individual effort against the Niners’ run "D" all season.

It’s worth noting that Lynch, who posted career highs in carries (285), rushing yards (1,204, seventh-best in NFL) and TDs (13) in his second season in Seattle, reached his peak last season on a national Thursday-night stage when he galloped for 148 yards and a pair of TDs on 22 carries in a 31-14 home victory over the Eagles.

Turbin (22-98-4.5 ypc for the season) made more of an impact against New England than Lynch with five runs for 27 yards, including a long of 11. Turbin is considered by many close observers to be a clone of Lynch with the same physical, punishing running style, and it would not be a surprise at all if the Seahawks give him more playing time in a game in which quality depth could be a huge factor.

Blazing speed, overpowering strength, all-out effort and stellar tackling ability are normally on display in the Niners’ run defense, with ILBs Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, DT Justin Smith and safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner warranting special mention. All of the above registered at least one tackle for loss against the Giants.

Smith, a beast up front who can dominate when the spirit moves him, and Whitner figure to be important tone-setters Thursday night.

A hard hitter who looks to instill the fear of God with every tackle he makes, you might remember Whitner setting the tone in the Niners’ dramatic divisional playoff victory over the Saints last season with a punishing hit on Saints RB Pierre Thomas at the Niners’ seven-yard line that resulted in an extremely well-timed fumble recovered by the Niners in the Saints’ first possession of the game.