Hold the presses! Marshawn Lynch speaks!
The fact the topic was not exactly appropriate dinner-table talk? That’s another conversation.
This is Beast Mode, remember. He raps, dances and runs to his own tune.
In Sunday’s 24-17 win over the New York Giants, the Oakland native ran for an early 51-yard touchdown, busted loose for a nifty catch-and-run in the fourth quarter and finished with 101 yards on 17 carries – his most prolific and timely performance as a Raider.
The victory thrust the Raiders (6-6) into an improbable three-way tie atop the AFC West with the Los Angeles Chargers and imploding Kansas City Chiefs. Next week’s opponent: the Chiefs. The season finale opponent: the Chargers.
Normally, that means there is a lot to talk about, both about this Sunday and next, except that Lynch has his own normal. He normally ignores questions or utters terse, monosyllabic responses before ducking out the door. So consider this a mini-mini-breakthrough, for better or for worse.
When reporters converged near his locker and asked about his effort, the media-averse running back explained, “My young life did it,” as he hurriedly gathered his belongings, including a computer printout that he displayed to the crowd.
“I’m sorry, though,” Lynch continued. “Look. It’s either this (a drug testing notice) or that (interviews and a penalty), and I can’t afford that. I apologize, but if you all understand what this is ... this is where you pull ding ding sauce out and give them what is it called? A urine sample.”
Thus, once again, it was left to his coaches and teammates to further the Marshawn Lynch narrative and elaborate on his valuable presence, particularly of late. He was among the few Raiders who didn’t embarrass themselves in the blowout loss to New England in Mexico City, ran for 67 yards and a touchdown last week against Denver and punished the reeling Giants early and late.
“When he came back from the suspension, I’ve seen a little more pep in his step,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. “I can’t speak for him (yes, he can). I just know what I see.”
But a little perspective here. The Giants are a messy 2-10 and low-hanging fruit for those hungry New York tabloids. Within the past several days, coach Ben McAdoo benched two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning to give backups Geno Smith and Davis Webb a look, immediately transforming himself into a human piñata. Legions of Giants fans and several of the veteran quarterback’s former teammates have taken sharp swings at the second-year head coach.
Then there was the not-so-subtle dig from Giants owner John Mara, who signed off on the decision to demote one of his favorite players, only to acknowledge that he was troubled by the way the situation was handled. “There are no guarantees in life,” Mara said when asked about McAdoo’s job security.
With the backlash extending into the weekend, ESPN and several New York media outlets area reporting that McAdoo could be fired as early as Monday.
Whatever. That’s New York. Welcome to the Bay Area. The Raiders had their own issues entering the game, namely, revising their game-planning for the mobile Smith, who has enjoyed success in the past against Oakland and whose style is the antithesis of Manning, and compensating for the absence of leading receivers Amari Cooper (concussion protocol) and Michael Crabtree (suspension).
There were a few burps along the way. The oft-maligned defense gave a up a few big passing plays by Smith, but Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin more than made amends with two jarring hits that caused the turnover-prone Giants quarterback to fumble. Mack’s blindside strip sack was particularly notable because it killed a drive on the Oakland 9-yard line, preserving the Raiders’ 10-7 lead at intermission.
Offensively, punt returner Jalen Richard bobbled four catches and Johnny Holton dropped two balls. But Cordarrelle Patterson had four catches for 97 yards, including a 46-yard reception. DeAndre’ Washington scored from the 9-yard line to give the Raiders a 17-7 edge. And then there was Lynch, who finished with he started.
His 51-yard touchdown romp occurred on the Raiders third play, giving them a lead they would maintain throughout.
“I think that was the long run of the year for him,” Del Rio said. “It was awesome for us to get that start.”
In the fourth quarter, the 5-foot-11, 215-pound back kick-started the offense again, this time catching a pass over the middle from Derek Carr, twice changing directions, breaking two tackles before being hauled down after 21 yards, setting up Washington’s TD.
“I looked at the stats,” linebacker NaVorro Bowman said, “and I said, ‘He’s still got it.’ To see him running the way that he’s running for so many years, I know exactly what the defense is facing. That’s a hard tackle.”
Assuming Lynch completes his duty for the NFL’s substance abuse police, he can sing, dance, rap – or not rap – the Raiders are fine. They just need him to run.