In a pass-heavy league dominated by the play of the quarterback, the ground game is still very much alive.
One of those teams, Seattle, has emerged on offense this season on the arm of a rookie passer, Russell Wilson, and the legs of Marshawn Lynch. Lynch isn't a new name around these parts, but his role in Seattle's scheme has helped the sixth-year pro become one of the NFL's most feared and productive backs.
Let's take a closer look at what makes Lynch successful in this attack:
In sync with the big uglies
The Seahawks are one of a handful of teams that employ a zone-based blocking scheme to make their ground game go.
Many teams still lean on man-block fronts that ask linemen to overpower defenders. The zone blocking scheme customarily asks linemen to move laterally, like a wave, taking out defenders at the point of attack. It relies less on what the defense throws at them and more on disciplined movement to create lanes for runners.
When zone-blocking teams part ways with a back, it's not unusual to see that player to wind up -- if he's still worth a damn -- on another zone-blocking club. It's a system that takes time to learn for blockers and runners.
More than a runner
Take a look below at this 14-yard connection between Wilson and Lynch.
The play-action pass works extremely well in Seattle's offense for a number of reasons: (1) Opposing defenses are hyper-aware of Lynch and cannot ignore the run. You don't need a monster ground game for successful play-action passes, but it helps. (2) Wilson, in his rookie season, is a fantastic salesman. His body control and execution on the fake handoff cause the defense to pause.
Lynch does a nice job on this play of selling the carry before popping into a gap in the defense. The Bills, meanwhile, do a poor job of putting a helmet on him. Upshot: A first down for the 'Hawks.
Final note on Lynch: He understands where the marker is and finds a way to get there. You'd be surprised how often this doesn't happen on third down around the NFL.
A sizeable part of what makes Lynch a special player has little do to with blocking schemes or selling the fake handoff. Lynch is simply one of the most physical backs in the game.
This 54-yard burst below tells the tale: Check out the blazing speed, the powerful legs, the stiff-arm at the end of the carry.
Lynch was doing this in Seattle two seasons ago -- and especially down the stretch in 2011 -- but the 2012 version of Beast Mode is king. We're seeing a more possessed, purposeful runner this season. More physical, too.