The Buffalo Bills drafted the 5-foot-11, 215-pounder with the 12th overall pick in 2007. After two solid years, his production started to tail off. Lynch also battled off-the-field legal troubles that led to a three-game suspension. Eventually, he was traded to Seattle in the middle of that 2010 season.
Although the Seahawks fan base quickly warmed to Lynch's rugged running style, it wasn't until the 3:38 mark of the fourth quarter of that playoff game that he truly earned the reputation he has today as arguably the NFL's most punishing runner.
"I think, in a way, it resurrected Marshawn Lynch's career. Ever since that run, he's been a lot more talked about," said former Saints linebacker Scott Shanle, whose inability to bring Lynch down at the line of scrimmage was the key moment of that run. "It was a heckuva run. But it was a lot more bad tackling on our part. And I think more than anything, that run just kind of put in one play the day that we kind of had.
"To me, we were the better team going up there, and we just got behind and made a lot of mistakes. We still had a chance to win at the end but just didn't make the play when it counted."
Just about everybody outside of the Seahawks' locker room thought the Saints entered the day as the better team. The Seahawks sneaked into the playoffs with a 7-9 record, making them the first division winner in NFL history with a losing record. And the 11-5 Saints were just coming off a Super Bowl win the year before.
"No one expected us to win," said longtime Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, now a backup for the Indianapolis Colts. "They were the defending world champs. We were 7-9, won the division, and everyone was talking about how we didn't deserve to be in the playoffs."
Former Seahawks tight end John Carlson, now with the Minnesota Vikings: "Everyone thought we were going to get blown out. But we kind of went blow-for-blow with them. We were scoring a lot of points."
Former Seahawks right guard Mike Gibson, now with the Arizona Cardinals: "The Saints, they really believed that they were going to come back in that game. For us, putting that game away was -- I wouldn't say shocking, because we knew we could beat them, but it was something that we had to do.
"I specifically remember [Saints middle linebacker] Jonathan Vilma running his mouth and saying that 'You guys aren't going to do it,' with some other vulgarities. We're just mouthing off back and forth, and I said, 'Just wait.'"
Hasselbeck caught fire in what turned out to be the last home game of his memorable 10-year tenure in Seattle. He torched the Saints' secondary with a series of deep passes, leading his team to a stunning 34-20 lead.
Then the Saints rallied, closing the gap to 34-30. After the teams traded punts, the Seattle offense took the field with a little more than four minutes to play, hoping to run out the clock.
Gibson was one of several Seahawks who said he was surprised by the play call -- 17 Power -- that came on second-and-10 from Seattle's own 33-yard line. The Seahawks based their run game on zone-blocking schemes that season. But this particular play called for straight-ahead, man-on-man blocking.