IRVING, Texas –Russell Wilson is really a great story – an afterthought among first-round quarterbacks who has overcome all odds to start for Seattle right out of the box, a guy who has the athletic ability to change games with his arm and his legs.
He's seemingly the hot topic as the Cowboys prepare to play the Seahawks on Sunday. So what are the defensive players most concerned about when they watch the Seattle offense on tape?
"I see Marshawn Lynch running the ball," outside linebacker Anthony Spencer said, drawing a laugh. "That's going to be our main thing, is trying to stop him and then after that worry about the quarterback and stuff."
While Wilson may be drawing the majority of the headlines out of the Pacific Northwest, the physical Lynch is still Seattle's central threat. In fact, Lynch was essentially all the Seahawks had in last November's matchup with the Cowboys. While quarterback Tarvaris Jackson threw for only 221 yards with three touchdowns, Lynch rushed for 135 yards on 23 carries. His touchdown in the fourth quarter was Seattle's only trip across the goal line.
Lynch was especially hot down the stretch last year. The triple-digit effort against the Cowboys was his first of the season, and the first of six 100-yard games in eight weeks. And the touchdown gave him a score in three straight games, which would eventually become an 11-week streak.
The Week 9 matchup just 10 months ago gives the Cowboys a good idea of how to approach Lynch on Sunday.
"Just keep pounding," defensive lineman Jason Hatcher said. "He's going to keep coming. He's not going to slow down. We've watched him on film – the more you hit him, the harder he runs, so it's going to be an all-day sucker for us. We've just go out there and keep hitting him. He's going to keep coming, keep hitting him. The best man's going to win, so we'll see Sunday."
While Lynch is renowned for his willingness to finish runs with power, the load he carries isn't the only test the Cowboys defensive front will meet on Sunday.
"It's like a two-headed monster," Hatcher said. "We've got him, and then we've got the offensive line cutting every down. They just cut. (Head coach) Pete Carroll teaches them to cut. So once you get the cut out of the way, you've got to worry about Marshawn Lynch, a.k.a. "Beast Mode" coming through the line. So it's just one of those things. We've got to keep our hands working, stay off the ground and try to contain him."
Lynch grinded out 85 yards on 21 carries in Seattle's season-opening loss to Arizona on Sunday, with a long of just 11. But for as powerful a back as Lynch is, he's more than a thumper, and has proven the ability to break big plays with his strength and open field speed. In Seattle's 2010 playoff upset of the New Orleans Saints, he broke at least eight tackles in ripping off a game-clinching 67-yard touchdown.
"He's made some real signature runs in his career," head coach Jason Garrett said. "He's a guy that we really liked coming out of school, and it's easy to see why because he's just one of those backs. He's very productive, but he does it in a way that is very demonstrative. And being physical at the end of the run is an important thing for backs, and he certainly is all of that."
The best way to stop a runner as strong as Lynch is to get multiple tacklers to the ball and swarm him down. If the Cowboys can do that, it'll make Seattle one dimensional, and theoretically the Seahawks' rookie quarterback will begin to look more like a rookie.
"He's got 300-pound guys on his back and he's still trying to get the extra yards," Spencer said of Lynch. "We're definitely going to be gang-tackling, get everybody to the ball and just get him on the ground. … We didn't have the best day against him last year, so we've got that in the back of our minds."