Marshawn Lynch has the most rushing yards in the NFC. In doing so, the Seattle Seahawks Pro Bowl running back has established himself as one of the NFL’s toughest running backs to tackle while amassing 549 rushing yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns in six weeks.
“Their running game is the bread and butter of their offense; everything works off of that,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said two days before his ninth-ranked rush defense (92.7 yards per game) faces Lynch and the Seahawks on NFL Network’s “Thursday Night Football.”
Fangio has plenty of respect for the 5-foot-11, 215-pound running back who continues to excel in his third season with Seattle. As a result of Lynch’s hard-nosed runs, the Seahawks currently have the league’s seventh-best rushing attack, averaging 131.0 yards per game.
“He’s the best back we played last year by far,” Fangio said, recalling Lynch’s 107-yard, Week 16 performance against the 49ers last season. “He broke more tackles than any back we played against last year. He runs hard. He’s a slasher, but yet he’s got really good cutting ability.”
Lynch has been especially consistent for Seattle in recent weeks. The six-year veteran has rushed for more than 85 yards in 13 of his last 15 games.
“He’s still that same running back,” Patrick Willis said. “He runs the ball hard, is a very elusive guy. He’s a hard tackle.
Group-tackling will be a key for San Francisco’s defense this week, especially against one of the hardest runners to solo tackle in the league.
“We can’t expect one guy to make the play,” Willis said. “He’s by far one of the best running backs in this league and will be one of the best backs we’ve faced all year long – and we’ve got to face him twice.”
Only Lynch and last week’s opponent, Ahmad Bradshaw, have surpassed the 100-yard mark against the Fangio-coached 49ers defense.
Last week’s 116-yard performance from Bradshaw humbled the 49ers defense. But it didn’t sour the group’s confidence.
Fangio said the defense spent 10 minutes evaluating the Giants film.
“We spent 10 minutes on it yesterday in the meeting and moved right on to Seattle. No time this week,” Fangio said.
Willis also said it was uncharacteristic play by the 49ers rush defense in the fourth quarter, but the performance wasn’t a cause for concern.
“It wasn’t as bad as we thought it was,” Willis said. “Everything was in place until that last drive. They got some good runs on us that were uncharacteristic of our defense, but it’s part of going out there and having to finish, no matter what the situation is.”
Former 49ers linebacker and current NFL analyst Matt Millen was publically critical of Willis’ performance against New York. The words were relayed to the five-time Pro Bowl linebacker who also made an appearance on the same Bay Area radio station where Millen made the initial remarks.
A day later, however, Willis had more time to think about the criticisms and offered an apology to Millen.
“A lot of times I don’t respond to what anyone has to say… I said some things I probably wouldn’t have said,” Willis said. “I apologize for those things and have all the respect in the world for those guys who’ve played this game before me.”
Judging by the quick film study of the 26-3 loss to New York and Willis’ locker room apology, the focus is already on Seattle, a 4-2 team that’s in a three-way tie with the 49ers and Arizona Cardinals for NFC West division supremacy.
“We know Thursday is a big game for us,” Willis said. “One, because it’s the next game. But also, too, it’s in our division. We need to start it off right.”
Tags: Patrick Willis, Vic Fangio
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