(SportsNetwork.com) - Famed bodybuilding maven Charles Atlas was perhaps best known for an iconic, comic-strip advertising campaign which featured a scrawny kid on the beach with his girlfriend getting sand kicked in his face by a bully.
"Mac" pledged to get that big bully some day with the help of Atlas' training methods and did exactly that, delivering a right cross to his antagonist before finishing the strip with a pretty girl on his arm.
Back on Dec. 2, if CenturyLink Field served as the beach, the New Orleans Saints played the role of weakling, getting abused by the biggest and baddest bully the NFL has these days, the Seattle Seahawks, in the form of a 34-7 rout.
Perhaps the Saints turned to Atlas' regimen over the ensuing 40 days because they showed a little more fight on Saturday but the only real change in the divisional round of the NFC playoff bracket turned out to be the details.
New Orleans defensive back Rafael Bush was "Mac" on Saturday, serving notice that things were going to be more difficult for the Seahawks this time by unleashing a pair of monster hits early, one which sent Percy Harvin back to the locker room for concussion protocol. (Harvin eventually did leave with a head injury later in the game).
So, while the bully may have not gotten his way this time, "The Beast" certainly did.
Seattle, which has now won 16 of 17 on its beach since inserting Russell Wilson as its starting quarterback, dominated the first half and received a bit of a scare in the second before "Beast Quake II," a 31-yard scoring run by Marshawn Lynch with 2:40 left, restored order as the Seahawks earned a 23-15 win over New Orleans and a berth in the NFC Championship Game against the winner of Sunday's San Francisco-Carolina contest.
"(Lynch) just continues to crank it out for us," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "You've got to love his last touchdown. That was maybe "Beast Mode 2," I don't know. It was very cool. A cool way to end that game."
Standing up to the bully is a tried and tested Hollywood cliche, nearly always resulting in the protagonist getting the best of his tormenter in the end. Real life tends to be different, though, and no matter how many rights the Saints were going to throw Saturday, Lynch wasn't about to let Seattle go down in front of "The 12th Man" on a raw, rainy day with wind gusts amping up to 30 mph at times.
If that seems like a less than desirable environment for Drew Brees, it was. The NOLA quarterback, who has four of the eight 5,000-yard passing seasons in NFL history, had all of 34 yards after the first 30 minutes of this one, his worst first-half performance as a Saint as Seattle made a 16-0 halftime lead stand-up to reach the NFC title tilt for the first time since the 2005 season.
Lynch, meanwhile, churned out 140 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries, including the coup de grace where he stiff-armed Keenan Lewis on his way around the left side as CenturyLink Field exploded.
It wasn't quite as spectacular as Lynch's original "Beast Quake" touchdown run against the Saints in the 2010 playoffs. Sequels rarely are but it still had plenty of ears ringing and those into such things scrambling for decibel levels.
"Marshawn Lynch was unbelievable today," Wilson said. "That last run was pretty awesome."
"It's all want with him," Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate added. "He's blessed with tremendous athleticism and body control and power. But right there he wanted that. He just wanted it and he went and got it."
Lynch needed to be on because Wilson himself was hardly impressive for the Seahawks, continuing his recent slump by compiling just 103 yards on 9-of-18 passing, and running a Seattle offense which generated little in the second half apart from the veteran running back's bruising runs.
Seattle's top- ranked defense, though, kept Brees in check for the most part with another impressive performance. The veteran was able to pick it up after intermission and finished 24-of-43 for 309 yards with a late touchdown to Marques Colston.
"You just don't know how many more opportunities you're going to have," a disappointed Brees said. "That's what makes it so tough standing up here and talking about it."
ESCAPING INTO THE NFL
Football, like any other form of entertainment, is an escape and boy did I need one this weekend.
At some point life stops giving you things and starts taking them away. Unfortunately I reached that tipping point a number of years ago but the realization of that fact doesn't take the sting away when fate turns cruel.
Neither logic or faith could have prepared me for what happened last Thursday. While driving home from the office I received the worst call imaginable, my mom was found unresponsive and was being rushed to the hospital.
Bumper to bumper traffic on I-95 in Philadelphia had to be one of Dante's Circles of Hell, the kind of uncaring twist which could make the most faith-based person in the world question his or her deity.
I didn't make it to the hospital in time. Ten minutes out, that original gut- wrenching phone call received moments earlier was trumped. The doctors did all they could do but my mother passed away at the age of 81.
Those who have read my columns dating back to my time as a local writer at Twin Cites Sports Wire know I can be as cynical and as jaded as it gets but that certainly didn't come from the Matriarch of my family.
As a person I've been ruled by an intelligible logic for far too long, not exactly a pleasant way to navigate through life. It would be nice to buy into cliches like all people are basically good but I've come to understand base instinct forces human beings to be selfish.
A rule needs an exception, though, and that was my Mom, the most selfless person I've ever known and a woman incapable of putting herself first.
Many children struggle to live up to the legacy of a parent and my cross to bear is the knowledge I simply can't. I'll leave that to the love of my life, Debbie, who is doing everything she can to get me though this.
The life raft during one of the darkest times has been the comforting fact that for some reason, a surly, undeserving pessimist got to have two great ones in his life -- three if you count my dog Isabella, who seems to understand when her Daddy is sad and does everything she can to remedy that.
Rest in Peace Mom, I love you and will never forget you.