Seattle's Marshawn Lynch poses a significant threat today to a couple of amazing streaks the San Francisco 49ers' defense has going.
The Niners' defense has gone 36 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. That's three times longer than the next longest active streak in the league -- 12, by Miami. It's also tied for the 11th longest streak in history.
San Francisco has yet to allow a rushing touchdown through 14 games. The record for a single season is just two rushing touchdowns allowed, shared by four teams -- the 1934 Lions, the 1944 Giants, the 1968 Cowboys and the 1971 Vikings. None of those teams played a 16-game season, but they all faced much more run-oriented opponents.
"History speaks for itself," Seattle center Max Unger said of the 49ers this week. "It's pretty impressive."
Up steps Lynch, who has keyed Seattle's resurgence the last two months. The Seahawks embraced the running game seven weeks ago. Lynch has seven straight games with 20 or more carries after failing to get 20 carries in any of Seattle's first seven games.
Lynch has five 100-yard games in his last seven, and he's up to eighth in the league in rushing with 1,011 yards. He has 11 rushing touchdowns in his last 10 games.
While Denver is getting most of the attention for its run-oriented approach, Seattle actually is out-doing the Broncos in the caveman football department. Over the last seven games, Seattle is running 62 percent of its plays. The league average is 43 percent runs. Denver is running 53 percent of the time.
Seattle has succeeded on the ground despite losing three starting offensive linemen for the season to injury -- Russell Okung, James Carpenter and John Moffitt. But offensive line coach Tom Cable, the former Raiders head coach, has done a good job adjusting and teaching his zone-blocking scheme.
Cable gives Lynch credit for adjusting to a one-cut, hit-it-upfield running style.
"He was more than willing to say, 'Teach me, I'll do it the way you need it, and don't let me off the hook if I don't do it right,' " Cable said of Lynch. "So big, big props, if you will, to him to have that kind of integrity and discipline and desire to be great at it."
Former Bills safety Donte Whitner, having a good year for the Niners, said this about Lynch this week: "He looks like he's in better shape. Sometimes in Buffalo he had some issues of being out of shape and putting on too much weight, but right now it looks like he's in really good shape. He looks like he's really determined and he looks like he's trying to get in the end zone each and every game, since he's had 10 straight games of getting in the end zone."
The Niners have a shot to have both inside linebackers -- Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman -- make first-team All-Pro this year.
Not only have the Niners allowed no 100-yard rushers, nobody has gained even 80 yards on them. The top opposing rusher this year was Michael Vick, with 75 yards.
"You don't set up on your goal board at the beginning of the year to not allow a rushing touchdown for the first 14 games of the season," said Niners coach Jim Harbaugh. "You want to be good against the run, you want to stop the run."
The Niners still are more than a full season shy of the NFL record for consecutive games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. That's held by Buddy Ryan's Philadelphia Eagles, with Reggie White and Jerome Brown, who went 53 straight games without allowing a 100-yard game from 1989 to 1992.
No. 2 on the list is the Los Angeles Rams' Fearsome Foursome defense, which went 51 games, ending in 1968.
No. 3 on the list is the Baltimore Ravens from 1998 to 2001. They went 46 regular-season games (50 including playoffs). The Ravens went 39 straight games from 2007 to 2009.
The great Lee
San Francisco punter Andy Lee is on track for a major record, too. He has a net punting average of 44.14 yards, which is threatening to break the mark set in 2009 by Oakland's Shane Lechler of 43.85 yards.
Lee, who came out of the University of Pittsburgh in 2004, is a near lock to make All-Pro for the second time in his career. He was All-Pro in 2007 and a Pro Bowler that year and in 2009.
Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris is on thin ice with his team on an eight-game losing streak. Morris is in his third season, and the Bucs are 4-10 after going 10-6 last year.
Morris was not helped by Bucs management, who largely stood pat with last year's roster in what may be the NFL's toughest division. But the fact the Bucs have been blown out five times this year hurts his odds of staying.
After last week's 31-15 loss to Dallas, Morris for the third time this year indicted his team for not playing hard.
"Generally we haven't had the play hard deal," Morris said a day after the loss. "But last night, I've got to say, they've got to play harder than last night."
Morris also called the Bucs' effort into question after losses at San Francisco and against Houston. Tampa's defense ranks 30th in the NFL.
Love for Romeo
Kansas City players already are lobbying hard to keep interim coach Romeo Crennel as the permanent replacement next season for fired Todd Haley.
"Everything was different," Ron McClain said of the Crennel's first week on the job. "More meeting time. More football time. Learning your opponent better, understanding your opponent. I know I watched more film this week than I watched all year. Everything was different, man. Good different."
Players made it clear they preferred Crennel to Haley.
Said running back Dexter McCluster: "I know everybody in this locker room will fight for him."
Receiver Terrance Copper: "He doesn't give us a reason not to play hard for him."
Said linebacker Tamba Hali: "He's very motivating. He treats us like men. He does expect a lot from us, but he knows what it takes to work this business, and how the body feels, and we're people, too. We love Romeo. As you can see what happened [in the win over Green Bay], he was able to control the clock along with our quarterback. That's something we haven't been able to do for a long time, control the clock. That will win you games."
Bills fans need to root for Tampa (4-10) to upset Carolina (5-9) today. Tampa has played a tougher schedule than the Bills, meaning they would draft after Buffalo if both finish 5-11.
Despite their win over Houston, the Colts still are in line for the No. 1 overall pick -- and Andrew Luck -- as long as they lose their season finale. The Colts have played a weaker schedule than the other two-win teams, Minnesota and St. Louis. But losing the finale is no "gimme." They play at banged-up Jacksonville (4-10) next week.
Eagles back LeSean McCoy leads the NFL with 20 touchdowns (17 rushing, three receiving) and passed Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren (18 in 1945) for the most in a season in Eagles history. That had been the longest-standing single-season club TD mark in the NFL. The current record now belongs to John David Crow of the Cardinals (1962).
Another sign Florida is a fair-weather NFL state: The Bills-Dolphins game was blacked out in Western New York last week. The Jets-Eagles game got a rating of 17.7 in the Buffalo market. (A rating is the percentage of households with televisions in the market watching the game.) That was higher than the rating for Bills-Dolphins in the Miami market (15.9), which was the lowest of any of the 30 markets in the league last week.