Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch clearly has a contentious relationship with the NFL. He’s known for letting his play on the field do all the talking, but ironically, a tweet he sent out shows how out of touch the quiet star is.
For the second time in less than a month, Lynch was fined for making an obscene gesture after scoring a touchdown. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported this fine was for $20,000 after he found the end zone in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game.
However, it was the fine levied against Lynch’s teammate, Chris Matthews, that set the running back off. Per Tom Pelissero of USA Today, Matthews was fined $11,025 for making the same gesture that Lynch did after scoring:
Lynch took to Twitter to voice his displeasure at the fine, though he had a seemingly different interpretation of the situation:
Pelissero posted a photo on Instagram of Matthews’ gesture that led to his fine:
It’s no secret that Lynch has a love-hate relationship with the NFL. He’s defied the league’s policy on talking to the media many times.
Lynch’s desire not to talk has gotten to a point where the Seahawks are trying to negotiate a deal with the league about what to do with the star running back during the Super Bowl media days next week, per the Schefter report.
If you’re forced to do something, it’s not as good as if you choose to do it. So no, I won’t have a lot of interesting things to say. When you’re forced to do something and you know it, it kind of just takes away from the whole experience of what it could be if (it were) natural. So, I’ll probably give forced answers.
Yet, for whatever reason, Lynch has decided to open up about this particular fine when he didn’t know the particulars behind it. It’s possible he didn’t know Matthews made this gesture, but this is where the power of social media comes into play.
If Lynch had investigated the fine, he would have seen that the league wasn’t just picking on Matthews because he was close to the situation that got the running back fined. Instead, he looks foolish by making a proclamation about the situation.
Certainly, given the way he seems to think, Lynch isn’t going to care about the tweet or what the NFL has to say. Nor should he.
Yet for someone whose team is having to negotiate a situation with the league about how little he has to say during media sessions for Super Bowl XLIX, it would seem prudent for Lynch to not publicly say anything about anything.
Then again, Lynch seems to thrive on the confrontation. Sometimes a person just needs to feel like the world is against them to do great things. It’s worked for him up to this point in his career, so what’s a little more antagonism if it leads to a second consecutive championship?
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Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch‘s disregard for NFL policies has cost him again. Lynch was fined $20,000 for making an obscene gesture during Seattle’s win over the Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
Continue for updates.
NFL Warns Lynch Ahead of Super Bowl
Saturday, Jan. 24
Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk reports the NFL will be on the lookout for Lynch to make a similar gesture in the Super Bowl:
The NFL wants Lynch to know that officials will be on the lookout and ready to assess a 15-yard penalty if Lynch does it again. NFL V.P. of Officiating Dean Blandino told ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio that the Seahawks have been warned that if Lynch makes an obscene gesture at any time during Super Bowl XLIX, the Seahawks will be penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Blandino told Paolantonio that if Lynch grabs his crotch after scoring a touchdown, “that means they will kick off from the 20 yard line.
NFL Fines Lynch for Celebration
Thursday, Jan. 22
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Lynch was fined $20,000 for his “obscene” gesture after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter of Seattle’s come-from-behind NFC Championship Game win over the Green Bay Packers.
However, there could be a bigger fine on the way:
On Thursday, Jan. 22, Lynch sounded off on the fine:
Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith added context to Lynch’s tweet:
Lynch is apparently referring to the NFL fining Seahawks receiver Chris Matthews $11,025 for celebrating with Lynch. The NFL reportedly thought that Matthews grabbed his crotch, which is why he was fined, although it wasn’t clear from replays that he had actually done that.
This is not Lynch’s first offense.
Per Spotrac, he was fined $111,177 in 2009 and suspended for three games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. He picked up a $5,250 bill in 2013 for wearing green shoes (a uniform violation), $100,000 in 2014 ($50,000 for failing to speak to the media and another $50,000 from a similar incident in 2013) and $11,050 in 2014 for excessive celebration.
And that list didn’t include Lynch’s $10,000 fine for wearing “Skittles” shoes in 2011.
Throughout, Lynch has taken part in media sessions that have been brief, to say the least. Gregg Bell of The News Tribune provided a transcript of one session following a Nov. 23, 2014, game against Arizona:
There was also controversy prior to the NFC Championship Game against Green Bay. The league was threatening to suspend Lynch if he wore nonapproved gold cleats. Lynch complied with the rule before kickoff.
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It’s easy to be confused at first when we talk about the Seattle Seahawks wide receivers and separation. It’s easy to look at the many deep connections with quarterback Russell Wilson and wonder where, exactly, the problem lies.
Wilson has indeed placed plenty of sailing balls this season into the waiting arms of receivers Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin. But a narrow throwing peephole is often all he’s been provided, leaving the margin for error thin.
Without his receivers creating space, Wilson is about to feel downright claustrophobic as a passer during Super Bowl XLIX. When New England Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis is lurking, thin margins tend to become batted balls.
Or worse, Revis will shut down an entire half of the field, just like his Seahawks counterpart.
When you think about the Seahawks offensively, you think about running.
You think about running back Marshawn Lynch powering, hurdling and high-stepping his way toward 4.7 yards per carry during the regular season, and a franchise postseason record of 157 rushing yards during the NFC Championship Game. You think about Wilson and his read-option scampering for 849 rushing yards, the fifth-highest single-season total among quarterbacks since the merger.
That heavy reliance on running is a starting point for something larger: aggression from the opposing defense and, eventually, separation downfield.
The Patriots defense has succeeded through eliminating the run. New England gave up the fewest chunk plays on the ground for 20-plus yards during the regular season (just two) and only six rushing touchdowns. They also have five starters with at least 30 defensive stops, according to Pro Football Focus.
Offensively for the Seahawks, it’s not difficult to envision a near future when passing is a necessity and viewed as more than an annoyance. Today in information that shocks no one: Seattle ranked dead last this season with 454 pass attempts.
Now we go from not remotely shocking to information that’s curious, or even strange.
Let’s repeat this with feeling: The Seahawks run, they’re a running team and they run because they’re a running team. Yet despite a whopping 155 fewer pass attempts than the Patriots, they still recorded eight more completions for 20-plus yards.
For the Seahawks, passing and the quest for separation deep is always linked to running. That’s how space is created, along with gains after the catch.
Both Kearse and Baldwin churn out yardage after the catch, and so does Lynch. The two receivers have combined for 674 yards after hauling in a reception this season (including playoffs), while Lynch has contributed 428. In total, Wilson’s passes have led to 1,872 yards after the catch.
Looked at from another far more revealing angle: Only 46.1 percent of Wilson’s passing yards have come through the air, per PFF. He ranks 36th among quarterbacks who took at least 25 percent of their team’s dropbacks this season, and he’s in the company of Blake Bortles and Kirk Cousins.
That percentage isn’t anything new, and it doesn’t necessarily speak to a problem either. No, instead it potentially outlines a solution.
Less is more with the Seahawks and their sometimes chaotic relationship with passing. Sometimes they don’t even call passing back after a nice evening. Other times, the Seahawks splurge and take passing out to Applebee’s.
Their passing yardage is primarily gained through slants, crossing routes and screens, all of which offer the opportunity for those lengthy runs after the catch. That approach decreases the need for separation and creates a passing game rooted in timing.
The space needed for a successful quick-strike passing game is generated through play action. Wilson logged the third-most throws off of play action during the regular season (143), per PFF, averaging 8.4 yards per attempt.
Of Wilson’s 20 touchdown passes this season, six came off play action, and he has a higher passer rating after a play fake (98.4) when compared to his rating on a standard dropback or rollout (93.3).
The entire Seahawks offense is structured around the run, whether it’s power from Lynch or deception from Wilson. That includes the passing game, as both Lynch and Wilson are respected threats.
When the Seahawks fall behind, that threat begins to fade. When separation then inevitably becomes difficult, those throwing windows tighten and Wilson has to be nearly perfect.
Wilson’s NFC Championship Game implosion is fresh, but he’s well-acquainted with perfect (or close to it). Heading into that game, he had the best posteason passer rating of all time, and during the divisional round he picked apart the Carolina Panthers with precision passing.
But asking your quarterback to flirt with flawless also means consistently skirting around disaster. That’s true even when the precise Wilson is on the field.
Consider the throw that completed a miraculous comeback Sunday, one still difficult to properly compute. It was another remarkable display of pinpoint ball placement from Wilson, made even more amazing by how lost he was throughout the rest of the game.
However, try to ignore the result for a moment and focus on the process (that’s hard, I know, because the result was sort of historic…but work with me here). There was no deep safety on the play, and Packers cornerback Tramon Williams was assigned to Kearse in one-on-one coverage.
Kearse ran a nine route and gained some separation immediately off the line of scrimmage. But he still couldn’t muster much of a divide and forced Wilson to throw his 35-yard dart into a confined area.
A throw short by, say, a few inches likely would have been batted away.
That play was the ultimate barometer of separation. Over a 35-yard sprint with no safety help, Kearse gained about a half-step, which was then nearly erased as the ball descended.
During the regular season, Wilson finished just outside of the top 10 in completions traveling at least 20 yards through the air. He collected 21 of them (12th), per PFF, a respectable final tally considering he attempted only 52 such passes (21st). For much of those connections, cramped spaces were a regular occurrence.
In Week 15, he fit another ball through a wormhole for a 47-yard completion to Kearse.
But as common as those narrow gaps between receiver and defender were in recent weeks, spacious throwing windows haven’t been completely absent.
Prime example: The much wider, buffer Baldwin put space between himself and Packers cornerback Casey Hayward on his own 35-yard reception, which set up Kearse’s game-winner.
That catch came on a corner route from the slot. Baldwin released with a stutter step at the line of scrimmage to freeze Hayward. Then, with Hayward firmly committed to press coverage and sealed to the inside, he planted with his left foot and accelerated deep downfield toward the sideline, where Wilson’s lob eventually fell.
Quick movement off the snap with abrupt cutting is how Seahawks receivers win battles. Doing that against Revis and Brandon Browner during the Super Bowl presents an all new challenge.
Revis is among the most positionally sound cornerbacks in football, and he has allowed an opposing passer rating of only 70.5 in coverage this season, per PFF. Meanwhile, Browner is one of the league’s largest cornerbacks at 6’4” and weighing 221 pounds. He’s not beaten often with grappling physical play at the line.
The Seahawks can still get separation, and there will likely be opportunities for significant yardage downfield. But it’ll mostly come through standard Seahawks football: running to set up play action and then suddenly striking.
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When the Seattle Seahawks are at full strength on defense, no one in the NFL is capable of beating them. However, that doesn’t appear to be the case heading into Super Bowl XLIX against the New England Patriots.
As dramatic as the Seahawks’ comeback win over Green Bay was in the NFC Championship Game, it did come at a price. First, star safety Earl Thomas suffered a dislocated shoulder, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
That was followed by the sprained elbow suffered by Richard Sherman later in the game, per NFL Network’s Albert Breer:
While it’s hard to downplay the significance of both injuries, Sherman’s stands out because of how limited he seemed immediately after it happened. He stayed on the field but was holding his left arm close to his body so it wouldn’t get hit by Packers wide receivers.
Sherman has left no doubt that he will be on the field when the Super Bowl kicks off on February 1 after the Seahawks’ win over Green Bay, via Alex Marvez of Fox Sports:
One question that many people were asking after the NFC title game is why the Packers didn‘t try to take advantage of Sherman’s weakened condition.
Warren Moon did an interview on Pro Football Talk Live, via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com, laying out the reasons why Green Bay should have looked in Sherman’s direction after the injury occurred:
I definitely would have went at him because one of Richard’s strength is getting his hands on receivers and being able to redirect them, and he couldn’t lift that arm up. He was able to make one tackle on one pass that they threw on a crossing route, and he was in agonizing pain from making that tackle. So I’m surprised [the Packers] didn’t go at him a little bit more, just throwing maybe a smoke route when you throw the ball to the receiver on the line of scrimmage and make Richard make a tackle or something like that.
But while the Packers will be asking themselves many questions for a long time about what caused them to lose that game, the Patriots are masters of taking advantage of any opening the opponent gives them.
Just look at New England’s two playoff games so far. Since Baltimore was geared up to stop the run, limiting the Patriots to just 14 rushing yards, Tom Brady took advantage of a banged-up secondary with 367 yards and three touchdowns on 50 pass attempts.
In the AFC Championship Game against Indianapolis, the Patriots let LeGarrette Blount carry the ball 30 times for 148 yards and three touchdowns.
Seattle’s defense has been vulnerable in various spots this postseason, mostly against the run. The Panthers and Packers ran for a combined 267 yards in the two games.
However, the Patriots have a weapon to throw against Sherman that no team in the NFL can match: Rob Gronkowski. The star tight end is a nightmare to game-plan for because he has the speed to line up on the outside and run by cornerbacks.
Sherman isn’t the fastest cornerback in the league, but he can get away with it because of how physical he plays at the line of scrimmage, and long limbs allow him to recover more quickly than an average player.
Yet that still won’t help him against Gronkowski if Bill Belichick chooses to split him out wide. Gronk has three inches and 70 pounds on Sherman, which would be hard enough to defend with two healthy arms.
One reason to expect the Patriots to test Gronkowski against Sherman, at least early in the Super Bowl, is explained perfectly by Coy Wire of FoxSports.com:
“The one thing that stands out on tape is that no matter where he lines up, the teams that disrupted him — either at the line of scrimmage or within five yards of his release — had the most success. Gronk is a bad man and if he gets a free run off the line, bad things happen.”
There’s no definitive timetable for recovery from a sprained elbow, though Sherman continuing to practice and use the arm isn’t going to make it get better more quickly.
The Patriots are going to get physical with Sherman early, making him prove the arm is healthy before anything else happens. If he looks like his usual self, then Belichick and Brady tip their hats by going to other schemes with Gronk on the line or against Byron Maxwell on the right side.
Until that happens, though, it’s hard to see how the Patriots aren’t favorites to win the Super Bowl. Even though the Seahawks aren’t likely to have five turnovers again, their offensive weapons outside of Marshawn Lynch don’t present many problems for New England’s defense.
Russell Wilson will be going up against a much better secondary than he’s had to face so far in the playoffs. Darrelle Revis is still one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Brandon Browner knows Wilson’s tendencies well from his days in Seattle.
Belichick’s strategy on defense is to make you one-dimensional, whatever it is. Since he knows the Seahawks want to run the ball, he can leave Revis and Browner alone in coverage to sell out for Lynch and keep a spy on Wilson.
Even if the Patriots aren’t able to move the ball against Seattle’s defense like they did against Baltimore and Indianapolis, they have plenty of weapons to cause problems for Pete Carroll’s team and a defense that can shut down the Seahawks.
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If there was ever a time for the Seattle Seahawks‘ now eight-game winning streak to end, it was at the 5:04-mark of the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers. Down 19-7 in the game, Russell Wilson threw his fourth interception of the game, and it appeared we would have a Packers/Patriots battle in the Super Bowl.
According to Pro Football Reference, Seattle’s chances of winning the game dropped to 0.1 percent after the errant pass from Wilson. As we all know, that sliver of hope was enough for the Seahawks to cap off a 28-22 victory and a second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl.
The reigning champions somehow finagled their way into the NFC’s top seed for the playoffs, winning nine of their last 10 games after a 3-3 start to the year. Following their first-round bye for the playoffs, a familiar opponent traveled to town in the Carolina Panthers.
The teams had played one another in Carolina each of the last three years, with Seattle coming out victorious on each occasion by a combined score of 13 points. This margin of victory was wider, with Seattle winning 31-17, but the game was every bit as close as the previous three.
The score was close through three quarters but, as has become the norm for Seattle of late, a fourth-quarter surge was all it took to take the victory. The Seahawks have outscored their last five opponents in the fourth quarter 74-13. Through the first three quarters, they outscore their opponents 55-45.
While the team would love to enter the closing quarter of a game with more assurance of a win, the Seahawks’ formula has produced the results they desire in thrilling fashion. With the big game set to be played on a neutral field, the Seahawks opened as two-point favorites on Odds Shark. However, things have fluctuated heavily, as the line has since swung to New England being favored by 1.5 points.