When Golden Tate saw himself as an NFL wide receiver, he pictured nights like Thursday, games where it seemed almost too easy to impact games for the Seattle Seahawks.
He knows better now, a year and a half into his professional career.
“In college, I could pretty much show up and compete – I didn’t need to study a lot of film,” Tate said, laughing. “Here, what separates the best players are the small things.”
One of the small things in Seattle’s 31-14 victory over Philadelphia was a 23-year-old 5-foot-10, 200-pound wide receiver who came in with 16 catches in 2011 – 37 in his career.
A backup most of the season, Tate moved up the depth chart when Sidney Rice was placed on injured reserve with concussions and Mike Williams, so effective last season, seemed to disappear.
Given the chance to start, Tate caught four passes for 47 yards – including a third-quarter 11-yard touchdown catch that increased the Seahawks’ lead to 24-7.
Initially, Tate tried to downplay the third touchdown catch of his career.
“I had the easiest part of that play,” he said. “The line protected, it was a great call and Tarvaris (Jackson) made a great read and throw. All I had to do is what I do every day in practice.”
It wasn’t quite that simple.
Jackson’s pass was high – over the defender in the back of the end zone – and Tate went up to get it, then got both feet down to make it count. When pressed about the acrobatic play, Tate talked about his head coach.
“I make catches like that all the time in practice, but Coach (Pete) Carroll was always on my butt,” Tate said. “Small things turn into good habits. I’d catch that pass in practice and he’d yell ‘Get your feet in!’
“Well, I want to be exactly where they want me to be on every play, and I’m going to do this just like they want me to.”
Carroll praised his young receiver.
“He’d do whatever we give chances to do,” Carroll said. “This is what we see in practice all the time, we just haven’t gotten him in there as much to give him focal point opportunities.”
With Rice down, Seattle needed a receiver to step into that void, and Tate got a chance.
“With Sidney down, we’re looking to see who is going to pop up and be active. It’s great to see Golden – we’re just going to keep doing it,” Carroll said. “He’s really special. He makes special plays, so we have to keep giving it to him.”
Tate was determined to do the job.
“It was an opportunity to show the coaches, my teammates and everyone else I can play,” Tate said. “I need to work, I need to get better, but I can play. My chance finally came tonight, and I just tried to do exactly what I do in practice.
“I feel like once the ball is in my hands, I’m like a running back. Last year, I think they weren’t sure which Golden they were going to get week-to-week. I’m working hard and watching (Ben) Obamanu and (Doug) Baldwin.”
Tate began the game with 16 catches this season – tied for fifth on the team – and caught all four passes Jackson threw his way. By the end of the night, his 20 catches matched Marshawn Lynch’s season total, and he shared the fourth-highest total on the team.
Quarterback Jackson was asked about Tate’s touchdown catch.
“That’s what he’s good at – going up and getting the football,” Jackson said. “You know I appreciate that.”