Michael & Brown might have to carry running game to Super Bowl

“In this system, we’ve never not had a good back. Whoever it is can go for a thousand. I’m not worried about that so much. … Hopefully (Marshawn Lynch is) with us. If he’s not, then we move on. That’s fine.” — Tom Cable in June 2014.

Tom Cable was right: The Seahawks don’t need Marshawn Lynch. And it turns out they don’t really need Thomas Rawls either — as spectacular as he had been in relief of Lynch.

The Seahawks are a system running team — and, once the five linemen are in sync in their zone scheme, it is tough to stop the system. The Hawks proved that again Sunday, when they rolled up 182 rushing yards with two new backs — born-again Seahawk Christine Michael and Bryce Brown.

And, based on Pete Carroll’s comments Wednesday, Michael and Brown will be the ones to carry the Seahawks’ ground game into the playoffs, if not through to the Super Bowl.

Last week, we predicted Lynch wouldn’t be back until the playoffs — if then. Carroll basically confirmed that Wednesday, saying Lynch was still rehabbing out of town (reportedly in the Bay Area) and not ready for football practice yet.

Carroll said he has heard that Lynch is “working really hard. When he’s ready to get back to football, he’ll jump back in.”

On Monday, Carroll told 710 ESPN that Lynch is in a “race against time” to see if he can play again this season.

On Wednesday, he again promised nothing, saying only that the longer the Seahawks play the better the chance that Lynch might return for the playoffs.

“There’s a chance. It’s possible for him to return,” Carroll said. “Fortunately, we’re going to get to play longer; and, the more we do that, the better off his chances to get back.”

In the meantime, the Seahawks showed Sunday that they can still run the ball without either Lynch or Rawls. Michael — back from his tour of the NFC East — ran for 84 yards on 16 carries and Brown gained 43 yards on nine attempts.

It was the sixth time the Seahawks had gone over 150 yards this season. Sure, it came against Cleveland’s 29th-ranked run defense, but Michael and Brown satisfied everyone that Seattle’s run game will stay strong even if Lynch cannot make it back.

It’s par for Cable, who has coached top-10 running games in eight of the last 10 years. In Oakland, he created top-10 attacks using five backs. In Seattle, Lynch and Russell Wilson have spearheaded the top two rushing totals in team history — 2,630 yards in 2014 and 2,579 yards in 2012. This year’s run game ranks second in the NFL at 2,064 yards.

Carroll reiterated Wednesday that a strong running attack is the key to sustained success.

“We have great commitment to the run game,” he said. “For all of the football gods that have ever spoken of this game and how you’re supposed to play the game, it goes back to the history of it: This game is won on the ground and won on both sides of the ball.

“You have to be able to do that if you want to be a long-term, consistent, winning team. We’ve been committed that way for a long time. I’m glad the numbers show that, because that’s what we’re trying to demonstrate through our play. It’s hugely important to us, obviously.

“That’s why I was really excited about last week,” he said, “when the new runners come in, and they have an impact and we run for 180. That’s a big deal. That’s about the guys up front, and the commitment and all of that. We’ll see if we can get somewhere near that again. It’ll give us a chance to play like we want to.”

Even if Lynch does not return.

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