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Originally published Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 10:03 PM

Beast-powered Seahawks change "soft" style

Marshawn Lynch's violent running style has helped remake a Seahawk offense and image.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Sunday

Seahawks @ Chicago Bears, 10 a.m., Ch. 13

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The skies were clear for Marshawn Lynch's first game as a Seahawk, the forecast hopeful but entirely uncertain.

Seattle was a team seeking to rekindle a running game that was more of a crawl the previous four years, while Lynch was a former Pro Bowler on a new team, hoping to make the most of a second chance at a first impression when the Seahawks played the Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago on Oct. 17 last year.

"It felt good," Lynch said of that game. "Just having a fresh start with a new team, but more, just curious to see how the chemistry between me and the team was going to work out."

The answer has become evident only in the past month and a half as Lynch has rushed for more than 100 yards in five of his last six games, carrying the Seahawks to their most successful run in four years.

As Seattle prepares to go back to the beginning Sunday, returning to the site of Lynch's first game as a Seahawk, it's worth taking a moment to recognize the role he has had in this team's new direction.

"In the way that we want to play, you need somebody on your team like that carrying the football," coach Pete Carroll said. "Without an attack guy it doesn't feel the same. He fits it just right."

There was a time when Sunday's game would have been a contrast in styles. That time, however, was three or four years ago, back when the Seahawks' offense was built around its quarterback, and the Bears were defined by their defense. It was the West Coast offense facing the new-age Monsters of the Midway.

That's not to say the Seahawks were never successful. They've won four of the past six regular-season meetings with Chicago and had a string of four division titles not that long ago. But there was a reputation that took root in the ashes of that success.

"Soft," fullback Michael Robinson said.

Robinson would know. He spent his first four years in the NFL as a 49er, playing the Seahawks twice a year.

"When I was there, that was our mindset," Robinson said, "that Seattle, they don't want to hit for 60 minutes. As I tell the guys here in the locker room, we try to change that mentality."

That change is about more than just one running back, but it's evident how important Lynch has been in making his presence felt. He doesn't shy away from contact, he seeks it. Just ask the man who blocks for him.

"I know, being in front of the guy, you better get going," Robinson said. "Because if not, you'll be one of the guys falling off of him, too."

The only thing soft about Lynch is his voice. The man almost whispers during interviews, but on the field he is one of the hardest, most violent runners in the league. Someone who used one arm to shove Saints cornerback Tracy Porter more than 5 yards downfield in his 67-yard touchdown run in the playoffs last year, then said in an NFL Network interview that it was "just a baby stiff-arm."

"He just has a specific style," said center Max Unger, "and a personality on the field that you really want to play for."

Lynch has become the face of this offense. His touchdown run against the Saints has become an indelible moment in the franchise's history. He needs 31 rushing yards in the final three games this season to become the Seahawks' first 1,000-yard rusher since Shaun Alexander in 2005. If he reaches the end zone Sunday, Lynch would set a franchise record with touchdowns in 10 consecutive games.

As Lynch returns to the site of his first game as a Seahawk, the question is no longer how he will fit with the team. The question is how far they can go while facing a 7-6 Bears team that is one game ahead in the wild-card chase.

Notes

• LB David Hawthorne (knee) returned to practice after sitting out Wednesday with a sore knee. G Robert Gallery (hip) again missed practice, as did DE Raheem Brock (calf) and T Jarriel King (hamstring).

• CB Richard Sherman (knee) sat out practice for the first time this week.

• Bears RB Matt Forte (knee) didn't practice. While coach Lovie Smith would not rule him out of Sunday's game, it appears increasingly unlikely that Forte will play. He is the Bears' leading rusher and top receiver with 52 catches.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @dannyoneil

Run-on sentence
Marshawn Lynch didn't rush for 100 yards as a Seahawk until his 19th regular-season start. Since he hit the century mark at Dallas, though, Seattle has found as much success on the ground as it did in the 25 regular-season games before Lynch was acquired:
Past 6 games 25 games before Lynch's arrival*
100-yard rushing performances 5 4
Rush TDs by running backs 7 7
Team rush yards 141.7 97.2
Avg. per rush 4.1 3.9
* Nov. 28, 2008 to Oct. 3, 2010.

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