BY Art Thiel 07:00AM 10/07/2011

Thiel: Time for Seahawks to hit rush hour in NY

Lynch says the boys up front have become men in four short weeks — enough that playing the Giants in New York is a winnable proposition.

Marshawn Lynch thinks the Seahawks rushing game is the verge of showing some muscle. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest file

When many last saw Marshawn Lynch, he was soaring into the Seattle end zone, crotch in hand, celebrating a 67-yard touchdown run that  became one of the greatest individual plays in Seahawks history.

In that January playoff game, Lynch rushed for 131 yards in 19 carries and Seahawks pulled of one of the NFL season’s biggest upsets, a 41-36 win over defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans.

Since then, much has changed, including most of the Seahawks offensive coaching and playing personnel. As for Lynch, it has taken all four games in 2011 for him to surpass his total in the Saints game — and 46 carries to get those 141 yards.

The Least Mode  production has not inspired Lynch to take public liberties with private parts. When one’s team is next-to-last in NFL rushing, it is best not to call attention to oneself.

The ground-down ground problem is more than Lynch, and less than pleasing for the Seahawks. Even in a pass-drunk league that these days runs the the ball only 40 percent of the time, an historic low, the Seahawks’ 67.5 yards per game — a half-yard ahead of Tennessee, which has switched to an all-air attack thanks to a startling specimen of a new passer — is feeble.

Lynch sees the problem as less about inability than infrequency.

“There’s not a problem with the running game — we just don’t run it enough,” he said in the locker room this week before practice.  Superficially, that’s true — their 80 attempts are the fewest in the league. But that’s partially because in getting to 1-3, they have been perpetually behind and forced to play catch-up with passing, and partially because the inexperienced line has been getting hammered.

An example was viewed all week at Seahawks headquarters — the video of last season’s 41-7 thrashing at home by the New York Giants. They’re also the opponent Sunday in New York. Last year, the Giants score three touchdowns in the first 13 minutes, and were up 35-0 at the half. As a result, the Seahawks rushed only 14 times, while backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, in his first Seattle start, flailed helplessly.

The O-line then, as it is now, was nearly inert. Last year it was because of injuries. This year it is because of choice. The Seahawks wanted to go young, and are paying for it in the early season.

To hear Lynch tell it, that time is over.

“There’s been a big difference between week 1 and week 4,” he said. Why is that, he was asked.

Lynch: “They’re not rookies any more.”

Well then, one of life’s secrets to life has been revealed. NFL manhood is obtained after week 4.  How he knows that first-year linemen John Moffitt and James Carpenter are ready wasn’t offered. But he made clear he was not short-cutting the maturation process.

“If there was a cheat code,” he said, smiling, “we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

If Lynch is right, the moment could not be more timely.  Not only have the Seahawks not beaten either the Giants or the Jets in New York (or its Jersey swamplands) in 28 years, they have a chance for instant national cred as well as validation for the Pete Carroll regime.

“It’s going to affect everything we’re doing,” he said this week of the rushing game. “The run started to pop (against Atlanta Sunday, a 30-28 loss) as we got the game close. The run-pass thing started to even out. I think we’re on course to get that done. It’s going to happen eventually.”

Anyone who watched Carroll’s teams at USC knows his affinity for slamming tailbacks into opponents’ grills. But the football world has changed.

“The NFL is different in that regard than it was 10 or 11 years ago when I was here,” he said.  “The college game really went crazy in the last 10 years throwing the football and spreading the field out. The NFL hasn’t followed that as directly or as quickly as they could have.

“But the change is here. It’s on.”

The only way to keep up, however, is to at least have the threat to run successfully. Only in the second half against the Falcons has there been a glimmer.

That’s enough for Lynch. His boys have manned up. Good enough for me.

Operating out of the no-huddle most of the time, with a quarterback they now permit to throw downfield, the Seahawks defense quiets Giants qaurterback Eli Manning sufficiently to pull off the upset, 17-16.

You can look it up. Happens to the Seahawks in New York every quarter century or so.