Why the Raiders have Marshawn Lynch to thank for being tied atop AFC West

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OAKLAND Marshawn Lynch had no time to talk Sunday, flashing a paper notice that had been taped to his locker and explaining that he had to take a league-mandated drug test.

Only he said it in a much more colorful manner, eliciting howls of laughter from the media pack he had artfully managed to avoid yet again.

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The response was a little on the blue side for mainstream media, as were his words of wisdom to Jalen Richard after he mishandled three punts.

Lynchs advice?

Just (bleep) it, Richard said. He told me, Youre still a baller. Youre still that dude. Dont even stress on it.

It was Lynch early and Lynch late in a 24-17 win over the New York Giants, and without him the Raiders would not be involved in a three-way tie atop the AFC West with a 6-6 record.

During a protracted answer about Lynchs influence came the money quote from quarterback Derek Carr.

Marshawn is just taking over, Carr said.

And to think it wasnt that long ago, with the Raiders having lost five of six games, that it was worth pondering whether trading for Lynch was even a good idea.

Lynch rushed for 101 yards on 17 carries, scoring on a 51-yard third-and-1 bolt to open the scoring. In the fourth quarter with the raiders clinging to a 10-7 lead, Lynch caught short pass out of the backfield from  Carr and turned it into a 21-yard gain.

It set up a 9-yard run by DeAndre Washington and put the Raiders in control of the game.

Lynch had run twice for nine yards on the Raiders first two snaps before Carr looked over the defense and checked to another run on third-and-1.

We were able to get into that into the right way we wanted to run it, Carr said. We ran it power-scheme backside linebacker came to play.  The safety fit on the same side and Marshawn was able to pop free.

It was the first 100-yard rushing game by a Raider this season, and Lynchs first since gaining 122 yards on 27 carries on Oct. 22, 2015 with the Seattle Seahawks against the 49ers.

Raiders linebacker NaVorro Bowman was on the opposite sideline of Beast Mode that day.

To see him running the way hes running for so many years, I know exactly what the defense is facing, Bowman said. Thats a hard tackle.

To Raiders linebacker Bruce Irvin, a teammate of Lynchs in Seattle, he looks like the same guy.

Thats it, right there, Irvin said. Pretty much a do-it-all guy. run the ball, catch out of the backfield, block. Hes finally getting his legs back under him and its showing. You can tell.

Despite a promising start, with Lynch gaining 76 yards on 18 carries against Tennessee in the opener, his playing running style is only now beginning to mesh with the Raiders. There was some mixing of zone scheme runs in with the gap and power game the Raiders used last year.

Lynch is up to 558 yards rushing this season and his average yards per carry is up to 4.0 with six touchdowns.

Plus there seems to be a difference with Lynch since returning from a one-game suspension for leaving the bench and bumping an official while trying to play peacemaker between teammates and close friend Marcus Peters of the Chiefs.

Ive seen a little more pep in his step, Del Rio said. I cant speak for him, I just know what I see. Its been good. I welcome it, and were taking full advantage of it.

Lynchs previous long gain was 25 yards, and Washington felt he was destined for bigger things against the Giants.

I felt he was going to have an 80-yard run today, and he had the 50 (actually 51), so it was good, Washington said. It was overdue. It was time for one of us to break that long one and I was glad he was able to pop the seal and get in.

Both Washington and Richard have watched Lynch closely. Theyre usually amused, and always educated.

I mean, just stay true to who you are, to your running style, Washington said. Even if youre getting those 2-yarders, eventually will open up. He runs like who he is and those plays will come when they come.

Richard has leaned on Lynch for advice with for zone scheme plays which require patience and being mindful of an internal clock as a signal when to cut the ball upfield.

Hes also watched Lynch meet with offensive line coach Mike Tice as hes worked to mesh his style with that of his offensive line. And the results are getting better.

Hes getting more into his rhythm, Richard said. Hes being him, man. Looks like he hasnt missed a beat. Weve seen spurts like that all year, but hes definitely in a zone right now.

With the Raiders in a dead heat heading to the finish in the AFC West, having Marshawn Lynch hit his stride for the gun lap is not a bad thing to have.