Vince Wilfork: Marshawn Lynch best in NFL

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Asked for his thoughts on Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, New England Patriots defensive captain Vince Wilfork didn’t hesitate in praising Lynch as the best running back in the NFL.

“Beast,” Wilfork said Friday at the first mention of Lynch’s name. “He’s an old-school running back that can do everything. There’s not one thing he cannot do. He is very, very, very tough.

“The more and more you play in the game, it seems like he kicks it to another gear. And that’s the sign of a great football player. He’s hands-down the best back in the game because he can hurt you anytime he has the ball in his hands.”

Lynch -- who is often referred to as “Beast Mode” because of his hard-nosed style of running -- is a five-time Pro Bowler, including each of the past four seasons. The 28-year-old enjoyed a strong 2014 campaign, totaling 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground while also posting career highs in receiving yards (367) and receiving touchdowns (four).

Last Sunday’s NFC Championship Game was more of the same for Lynch, as he ran for 157 yards and a touchdown while also reeling in a pivotal 26-yard pass late in the fourth quarter of the Seahawks' comeback win over the Green Bay Packers.

An eight-year veteran, Lynch spent his first four seasons in the league as a member of the Buffalo Bills, where Wilfork first got to see how much of an impact player Lynch was on the field.

“I remember playing him when he was in Buffalo as a rookie and I went up to him at the end of the game and I said, ‘You’ve got something special. You’re a hell of a ballplayer.’ I said, ‘I have to give my hats-off to you,’” Wilfork said. “And he kind of smiled and was like, ‘Thank you.’ It seems like he’s been getting better and better.”

Lynch is perhaps the biggest key to the Seahawks' offense, giving opposing defenses a significant weapon to account for while mobile quarterback Russell Wilson scans the field in order to make a play on the ground or through the air. For that reason, Wilfork has been impressed by what he’s seen of Seattle's offense on tape, noting how important it will be for the Patriots to be on their toes.

“With the backs they have and with Russell Wilson being able to run the ball at will, it makes their offense so dynamic,” Wilfork said. “They don’t do a lot of exotic stuff. Basically, they go out and they do what they do and they make plays and they execute at a high level, and they’ve been doing it for a couple years now.

“It’s going to be a challenge all around for us. It’s not just going to be just defensive line or just the defense. It’s going to be all three phases of the ballgame. We have to be able to play well. If we play well, we’ll set ourselves up well in the game, but if we don’t we’ll have problems.”

Lynch has been a problem for teams all season long. And in next Sunday’s Super Bowl, Wilfork and the Patriots will hope to avoid that by shutting him and Seattle’s dangerous running game down before they’re able to do some serious damage.

“I think it’s going to be so important for us to have more than one defender tackling him because he’s shown over the years what he [can] do,” Wilfork said. “He’ll make some defenses and he’ll make some players look stupid on the football field. I don’t want that feeling, I’ll tell you that. It’s going to be a lot of running for us trying to get to him because he demands that. He’s just a great back.”