Yes, Marshawn Lynch is in his tenth NFL season, and closer to 32 than 31, but make no mistake about it, even with over 2,200 carries to his name, Lynch is still very much a running back capable of putting an offense on his back, and carrying the ball 20-plus times in a game.
"See what people don't know, they think Shawn is washed," said Seth Roberts following the Raiders 21-14 win over the Denver Broncos. "Shawn isn't washed up. Shawn comes in here every day with his mind right, and ready to ball, and that's what he did today."
Without the services of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, Todd Downing leaned heavily on Lynch Sunday afternoon at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, feeding him the ball 26 times – his heaviest workload since October 2015 – en route to the Silver and Black's pivotal, Week 12 win over the Broncos.
"Marshawn – you all know him; he's going to run hard regardless," Derek Carr explained postgame. "We go back to Week 1 against Tennessee, we all remember that run. He's going to run it hard. We've just been able to hit some passes to soften the defense up. He's been able to hit some holes and get the tough yards – plays that are three-yards, turned into seven; plays that should be losses, he's turning into two-yard gains."
That toughness, that inability to go down at first contact, was one of the big reasons the Raiders acquired Lynch in April, and that part of his game was on full display Sunday afternoon as the rains came down at the OACC.
"Days like today, with the rain, the slop, that's kind of what linemen dream of, and having a back like Marshawn who can break tackles, and make you look even better is a nice thing," Marshall Newhouse said. "I'm just glad we gave him extra chances, and he gave us chances as a line, if they were doing something, for us to run the same play, and correct it. You saw we popped off a few big ones, and I think we'll only get better from here."
While No. 24 averaged just 2.4 yards per carry against the Broncos, Lynch is in the midst of his most productive run in Silver and Black. In his past three games – Lynch was suspended for the team's Week 8 clash with the Buffalo Bills – the Oakland-native has carried the ball 51 times, totaling 191 yards and three touchdowns.
For comparison's sake, Lynch found the end zone just twice in the first seven games of 2017.
"I think I made the statement earlier in the week, and I'll just reiterate it, that Marshawn since coming back from that time with that one game suspension, I feel like he's come back with even more purpose, resolve, whatever it might be," Head Coach Jack Del Rio said. "He's come back operating in a way that I think is good for us. Very decisive and very purposeful about his running and his approach."
That decisiveness and purpose has manifested itself in production for "Beast Mode" but according to Marshall Newhouse, don't discount familiarity as another factor for why Lynch has been running the ball so effectively as of late.
"I think he's getting acquainted with us, and hopefully we can stay in games early so we can keep running the ball," Newhouse explained. "That's been a problem in the past, that we've gotten behind early, and had to resort to just throwing. He's a monster. He's a beast, obviously, and we love having him."
And as productive as Lynch has been over the past month, Newhouse isn't quite ready to say that it's the best he's seen No. 24 pound the rock; in fact, he thinks the veteran running back is still on the upswing.
"There's not a full season of data and all that stuff, but we think he's on the ascent," Newhouse said of Lynch. "We think he's getting better. He's getting a feel for how we block, and our schemes, and stuff like that, so it's obvious to me he's been running better, and better, and better, but I think he has more to grow, and more to do. That's exciting as we get into the stretch where the margin for error is small."
Newhouse is right, even though the Raiders are still a game under .500, they still control their own destiny, and in many senses, everything they want is still in front of them.
However, they're going to have to start stacking wins, and doing so in a hurry if they want to find themselves in the 2017 postseason tournament.
Up next for Lynch and Co., is a home tilt against the New York Giants. Kickoff at the OACC is scheduled for 1:25 p.m. PT.