Everyone remembers Marshawn Lynch’s ‘Beast Mode’ run from three seasons ago. The Saints sure don’t wont to see another version of it Saturday. Their top priority is to ...
Don’t include Roman Harper among the 1,700,177 YouTube viewers who have watched “Beast Mode.” Or to have seen it via any other outlet if he can help it.
After all, why relive being the last Saints defender to have a shot at Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch on his seismic 67-yard touchdown run against the Saints in the 2011 playoffs that gained Lynch everlasting football fame and put the finishing touch on the Saints’ 41-36 elimination?
“I think the worst thing about it is that people still want to talk about it,” said Harper, the only Saints defender on the field for that play who will start again Saturday in the teams’ NFC divisional playoff game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. “I mean, it was so long ago.
“Look, the guy made a great play. But we’re a totally different team now, and they are, too.”
True enough. Russell Wilson, not Matt Hasselback, is now the Seattle quarterback. And like the Saints, the Seahawks roster has largely turned over.
But Lynch is still there, showing no sign of slowing down in his seventh season.
Lynch set a career high this season with 14 touchdowns (12 rushing, two receiving). He is the only player in the league to have rushed for at least 1,000 yards (1,257 this year) and 10 TDs over the last three seasons.
“I think he’s the premier power back in football,” Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. “I love him and (San Francisco’s) Frank Gore.
“They both pound that football and run it hard. They run it the right way, and they run it with the passion that those great backs do.”
However, somewhat lost in the debris of the Saints’ 34-7 loss at Seattle last month was the fact that Lynch wasn’t even his team’s top rusher that night.
Lynch, whose 1,160 rushing yards rank sixth in the league, had 16 carries for 45 yards (2.8 per carry), both below his season norms of 77.7 and 4.3 and 3 yards less than Wilson netted on eight carries.
“We did a decent job against him,” Harper said of Lynch. “But we didn’t dictate enough other stuff against them and we didn’t get the win. That’s what matters.”
Still, the Saints’ containment of Lynch was typical of a season where the defense has been at its best against the league’s top runners.
In last week’s 26-24 wild-card victory at Philadelphia, the Saints held league rushing leader LeSean McCoy to 77 yards, 21 under his season average.
In fact, against the top 10 rushers the Saints have faced this season, seven have finished under their season norms in total yards and yards per carry.
“Give credit to our D-line for that,” Harper said. “They’ve played great, physical ball all year, They’re doing what it takes for us to win.”
Still, Lynch, everyone acknowledges, is a challenge.
“You’ve got to stop him before he gets moving,” Harper said. “You don’t want him in the secondary because he’s so tough to tackle.
“I think he leads the league in broken tackles or something, That’s why they call him ‘The Beast.’ ”
It’s certainly a different mindset than the Saints faced last week against McCoy, whose quick cuts keyed his stellar season and thus was contained by keeping him off the edge.
“You have to prepare specifically for every runner you face,” linebacker David Hawthorne said. “Against Marshawn, we have to be gap sound.
“You can’t let him get through the gaps. But we’re excited about our game plan and if we execute it, it’s going to help us get the win.”
Hawthorne was a teammate of Lynch’s in Seattle in 2010 when Lynch joined the Seahawks after a midseason trade with Buffalo.
So he was on the sideline for Beast Mode, which saw Lynch break at least six tackles.
“It was like you were watching history being made,” Hawthorne said. “And when he scored, man, everything in that stadium just erupted.
“We knew then we were going to advance in the playoffs. That was a good feeling.”
Even Saints coach Sean Payton admitted to being an admirer of the play — although unlike before the first game against the Seahawks, it hasn’t been part of the pregame preparation or motivation.
“Listen, it was a tremendous run,” he said. “That’s what’s great about the playoffs.
“You have the chance to do things that can be remembered for a long time. I think that you watch it, you admire it and you look closely to make sure you prevent that from happening again.”
“He was a great back making a great play that day,” he said. “But if he breaks loose, somebody had better get him down.
“We sure can’t have that happen again.”