ARIZONA CARDINALS

Marshawn Lynch presents another big challenge for Arizona Cardinals defense

Dec 20, 2013, 9:04 PM | Updated: Dec 21, 2013, 9:49 pm

TEMPE, Ariz. – They call him “Beast Mode” for a reason.

Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is in his seventh NFL season, and he’s topped the 1,000-yard mark in five of them. Originally drafted 12th overall in 2007 by the Buffalo Bills, he’s really made a name for himself (pun intended) since being traded to Seattle midway through the 2010 season.

In 2011, Lynch rushed for 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns. In 2012, he tallied 1,590 yards and 11 scores. This season, he has 1,089 yards and 11 touchdowns, with two games left to play. He’s also gained 307 yards on 33 receptions, while scoring another two touchdowns via the air.

If quarterback Russell Wilson is the catalyst of the Seahawks attack, Lynch is certainly the centerpiece.

“He’s strong, he’s fast and he’s tough,” Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “And along with that, they have a very good offensive line so it’s not just the running back himself. When he gets going downhill, he’s a load.”

Just a couple years ago, the entire country took notice of that.

Lynch has very much earned his reputation for breaking tackles and being tough to bring down, and while he has not topped the century mark in four games, he is still someone the Cardinals and their top-ranked run defense are focused on heading into this very important game.

After all, he did run for 91 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries in the season’s first meeting, which the Seahawks won 34-22. And the last time the teams played in Seattle, he rushed for 128 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries.

“The guy’s a horse,” linebacker Daryl Washington said. “We have to rally all 11 guys to the ball, stop the running game first and foremost.”

“He runs hard,” defensive tackle Dan Williams said. “He’s been running hard since he got in the league, and there’s a reason why he’s a fan favorite and he’s a good player. It will definitely be a challenge trying to stop him.”

It’s a challenge the Cardinals have been up for more often than not this season, at least with other running backs. Only one, San Francisco’s Frank Gore, has reached the 100-yard mark against Arizona, and only four times has a team’s leading rusher tallied more than 60 yards in a game against the Cardinals.

Regardless, you can expect the Seahawks to keep running the ball; no matter how much success they may or may not be having early in the game.

“As long as you’re getting a couple yards each time, and then you kind of feel like you’re doing well early with twos and threes and those turns to fours and sixes and those turn into eights and tens as the game goes on,” Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “So there’s a little bit with sticking with it.”

Sunday’s game will represent an intriguing matchup in that it pits Arizona’s top-ranked run defense against the NFL’s second-best running offense. The Cardinals give up an average of 83.2 yards rushing yards per game, while the Seahawks, led by Lynch, post an average of 141 per contest. As the cliché goes, something’s got to give. If the Cardinals can bottle Lynch up, they’ll have a chance. But if the beast gets let loose, well, it could be a long afternoon for the visitors.

“The one thing about our division is if you don’t have a good line of scrimmage on either side of the ball,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said, “it’s going to get exposed real quick.”

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