Like most of the Chiefs, one would imagine, linebacker Tamba Hali has seen the Beast Quake.
That was the darting, powerful 67-yard touchdown run that put Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch on the map, helped the Seahawks beat the Saints in the 2011 NFC playoffs and officially put opponents on notice: if you dare to tackle any player aptly nicknamed “Beast Mode,” you better bring it.
“We can’t look at this guy and say one guy’s gonna bring him down,” Hali said. “We’ve seen him break two or three tackles at once.”
In a manner that stirs up memories of one Hall of Famer.
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“He’s more of an Earl Campbell of the modern day,” Chiefs defensive end Kevin Vickerson said. “He’s a beast. He lives up to the name.”
Lynch, a 5-foot-11, 215-pounder, certainly did last week when he steamrolled the New York Giants for 140 yards and four touchdowns in only 21 carries.
One could argue, however, that the Chiefs are better positioned than the Giants to stop the league’s best rushing offense at noon Sunday.
For one, the Chiefs rank 20th in rushing defense, not dead last. Secondly, they get to face Lynch at Arrowhead Stadium instead of Seattle, where the Seahawks are practically invincible. And thirdly, the Chiefs remain the only NFL team that has not allowed a rushing touchdown.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll is aware of the Chiefs’ goal-line success against the run, but the Seahawks have never changed their style of play because of an opponent.
“We’re not changing our formula because they can stop the run on the goal line,” Carroll said. “We can’t do that. We have to keep doing what we do. Hopefully, we can find a way to make it work.”
So clearly, something has to give.
“But it’s not going to be on our end — it’s that simple,” Vickerson said. “That’s our mind-set. We’ve got to protect our home field.”
Doing so will prove to be easier said than done. Lynch missed practice Wednesday and Thursday because of rib and calf injuries and is listed as questionable. He practiced fully Friday, and the Chiefs are assuming he will play.
Provided he does, they say stopping him likely will come down to physicality, tackling and understanding the Seahawks’ rushing schemes.
“They get physical,” Reid said, “that’s the type of game that we like to play.”
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Dating back to his days with the Jets, Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has seen his share of Lynch, who played for AFC East foe Buffalo from 2007-10.
Drawing on that experience, Sutton spent this week stressing the fact that this won’t be a typical game.
“He’s always been the same guy, aggressive, very physical and he’s not just a ‘run into ya’ guy,’ he can make ya miss,” Sutton said. “But he’s not going down because you run into him hard. That’s the part we tried to emphasize with players. You can run into this guy as hard as you want but if you don’t wrap up and run, he’s not gonna go down because he doesn’t stop on that contact.”
Sutton then called Lynch, who has rushed 153 times for 689 yards (an average of 4.5 yards per carry) and a league-high nine touchdowns, the most physical back in the league.
“Our tackling’s been pretty solid, but this is gonna be a little different kind of tackling,” Sutton said. “This is going to be a hard-nosed, tough technique tackling drill that you’ve got to do. You’re going to have to go in there and stick your face in there and go.”
But Lynch isn’t the only runner the Chiefs need to worry about. Quarterback Russell Wilson has rushed 66 times for 500 yards and four touchdowns, giving the Seahawks’ zone-read rushing scheme some serious teeth.
“Russell Wilson, I think, has got three 100-yard rushing games, which is more than most of the (running) backs in the NFL,” Sutton said. “He’s a dynamic player. A lot them are designed runs and then you add in the scrambles which are very difficult. But you’d like to be able to focus in on one of them, but you can’t neglect this other guy.”
Beating the Seahawks’ zone-running plays will come down to gap discipline and getting off blocks. If the Chiefs don’t, they will get gashed — just like the Giants.
“We’ve got to play our tails off and get a lot of guys to the football, got to win the line of scrimmage,” Sutton said. “That’s a big part of stopping the running game. You’ve got to win that battle up front there.”
They also have to tackle. The Seahawks, who will have a challenge of their own in corralling speedy Chiefs back Jamaal Charles, understand that, too.
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This offseason, Carroll released a 21-minute instructional video that detailed how the Seahawks instruct their players to tackle safely.
It gained notoriety on Peter King’s MMQB website, earned praise from John Madden, and caught the eye of the Reid.
“Yeah, I thought they did a great job with it actually,” Reid said. “Yeah, I think it’s good for young guys to see and I think it’s good for the game. It’s the fundamentals that you teach at this level, and they were able to do a nice job with that video and I think that will help people.”
Still, like most things, tackling is easier said than done. The Chiefs do not have a tackling video, but according to Pro Football Focus, they rank 17th in the league with 67 missed tackles. The Seahawks rank one spot below them with 69 missed tackles.
“I don’t remember them doing anything nobody else teaches,” said Vickerson, a former Seahawk. “Just come off physical, tackling the near shoulder, near leg and drive for five.”
Thanks to the new collective-bargaining agreement, teams are now permitted to hold only 14 padded, live practices during the regular season. But like the Seahawks, the Chiefs emphasize the skill regularly.
“We teach it, then we go tackle during training camp,” Reid said. “That’s why we do all the ‘live’ stuff.”
And similar to what the Seahawks did in the video, the Chiefs work on their form tackling techniques when they are not “live” — i.e. tackling each other — in practice.
“We still do tackling drills, we just don’t tackle to the ground,” linebacker Justin Houston said. “We still wrap up and drive our feet.”
It isn’t very exciting stuff, but several Chiefs said the extra work does help.
“You’re just sharpening your technique up,” said Vickerson,. “You don’t want to do a lot of collisions all the time in practice, so when you can, you work on your technique.”
But several Chiefs noted that when it comes to containing a player like Lynch, all the practice in the world won’t help you without another crucial trait: relentlessness.
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Houston is diligent about his craft, which makes his answer (when asked how conscious he is of tackling technique during games) fairly surprising.
“I’m trying to get him down the best way possible, anyway I can,” Houston said. “How often do you see a form tackle in football? You don’t see that. The objective of the game is to get him down. So I’m going to get him down. If I have to tackle him by his shoe, that’s what I’m going to do.”
With a guy like Lynch, he said, the key is getting multiple bodies around the guy. Because one on one, Lynch can break anybody’s tackle.
“It’s something we’ve been taught since Pee Wee,” defensive end Vance Walker said. “You have to drive your legs … that’s the most important thing. You have to bring an energy that’s equal or greater than his … it’s physics. And gang tackle. We tackle as a team so one person may get there, but we have to have everybody there.”
The Chiefs’ ability to do this has been a major reason they’ve been able to keep teams from scoring a rushing touchdown against them.
“It’s pretty hard to go through the whole season with that,” Carroll said. “Somebody might eventually knock one in and we’re going to do our best to try.”
Seahawks at Chiefs
When: Noon Sunday
Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
Records: Sea 6-3, KC 6-3
Radio: KTHR, 107.3-FM
TV: KSAS, Ch. 4