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September 16, 2014 at 5:24 PM

So why did Marshawn Lynch have only six carries Sunday?

The above is one the questions I’ve heard the most since Sunday as Marshawn Lynch got handed the ball just six times — three in each half — tying the fewest carries he has had in a game since being traded to Seattle early in 2010.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was asked about it Monday and here’s what he said:

That had nothing to do with the game plan. That’s just the way this game turned out. That’s the last thing we want to have happen but the way that it worked, that’s just what occurred. We didn’t get Percy (Harvin) the ball like we like to, and didn’t spread it the way we wanted to because we didn’t get a chance. We try to make the most of opportunities as it was. Our two-minute stuff was good; we were very effective there so as we get the ball on the 11, we think we got a chance to win this football game; three minutes is plenty of time and a couple time outs.”

Indeed, Seattle ran just 38 official plays from scrimmage — it averaged 61 per game last season.

So simply having fewer plays meant everyone got the ball less than ideal.

Seattle ran 10 plays in the first quarter and Lynch got the ball on two of them. The first drive ended in a punt after a sack, and the second was a three-play drive that ended in Harvin’s touchdown.

At that point, the game was sort of looking like normal — Lynch got carries 32 percent of the time last season.

But then things started to turn as the Chargers offense began to take over.

After San Diego went ahead 10-7, Seattle went three-and-out. The first play was a short pass to Bryan Walters for no gain the next a sack of Wilson on which he fumbled, with Luke Willson recovering for a nine-yard loss. You could probably argue not handing the ball to Lynch there. But they obviously had some plays they wanted to try. After the sack, Lynch got five yards and Seattle punted.

San Diego then drove for a field goal, after which Harvin fumbled the kickoff and the Chargers then scored a touchdown to make it suddenly 20-7 with 1:04 left in the first half. At that point, Lynch had three carries on 13 plays — again, basically an average day to that point.

But at that point, trailing by 13 and time running out, Seattle went with its hurry-up offense, which usually features Robert Turbin as the tailback. Turbin got the ball via a run or pass on three of the five plays as Seattle drove 69 yards for a touchdown.

After forcing a San Diego punt to begin the second half, Seattle got the ball at its own 20 and immediately was moved back due to a Zach Miller false start. Facing first-and-15 likely changed the plan, and Seattle went with a reverse to Ricardo Lockette and two passes (one to Lynch) before being forced to punt.

The Chargers then took 6:24 off the clock in driving for another touchdown to make it 27-14, forcing Seattle to go almost exclusively hurry-up the rest of the way. Lynch got two carries on the next drive as Seattle moved 70 yards in eight plays for a touchdown, which Lynch scored on a 14-yard pass.

Seattle held and got the ball back with 10:16 to go, and the second play was a Lynch run of seven yards to pick up a first down. That was his final carry of the day — his sixth out of what was to that point 29 offensive plays, as well as also making two receptions, meaning he had touched the ball on eight of 29 plays —or, roughly 27 percent of the plays.

Not the most he’s ever been used, but not necessarily being hugely underused, either, considering Seattle was behind from the early second quarter on.

The next two plays were incomplete passes by Wilson — and maybe you could quibble about those since Seattle had just picked up a first down to its own 28. But then, when teams run and fail on first down, that looks bad, too.  A false start on third down made it third and 15 and killed the drive.

When Seattle next got the ball, just 3:04 remained and Seattle was at its own 11. The first play was the ill-fated fly sweep to Harvin that resulted in a six-yard loss. At that point, they had to throw every down, and each of the next two passes went to Lynch for short gains before the fourth-down pass to Jermaine Kearse that went incomplete. San Diego then kicked a final field goal to make it 30-21 and that was that.

Unquestionably, that Lynch had just six carries really stand out when you just look at the box score. But reviewing the game as it happened, it’s hard to argue Carroll’s point that it was mostly just the result of the way the game evolved. As Carroll said, it’s the last thing they want to have happen. The same could have been said for much of what happened in San Diego.

 

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