SEATTLE — With Sidney Rice on the sidelines in street clothes, Percy Harvin still not ready for game situations and Golden Tate locked up on Revis Island by cornerback Darrelle Revis, Russell Wilson needed someone to throw the football to on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
Doug Baldwin was more than happy to be that guy. The third-year receiver was targeted by Wilson a team-high 10 times against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Baldwin rewarded Wilson and the Seahawks by making a game-high six catches for 75 yards, including the game-tying touchdown in Seattles 27-24 overtime win.
With Rice done for the season because of knee surgery and Harvins surgically repaired hip still at least week away from being game ready, teams are going to be focusing their pass coverage on slowing down the shifty Tate. I really didnt too much on offense today, he admitted.
But that also meant Baldwin got more opportunities. Hes never been shy about his desire to be used more in the Seahawks passing game.
Who wouldnt like that role? he said. You want to be targeted that many times. But at the same time, I had one drop on third down that obviously should have been caught. And there was another play where the pass was inside, but I felt like I still should have had it.
A drop and a sort-of drop are from glaring mistakes in a game where he made so many good plays. But to Baldwin, they matter.
In those situations, if I want to be who I want to be - which is a very good player in this league - then I have to get those plays done, he said.
Moving beyond Baldwins own self-criticism, he did make a catch that easily atoned for any mistake he might have made.
With just over five minutes left in the third quarter and the Seahawks in desperate need of a spark, trailing 24-7, Wilson found Baldwin for key catch on second down and 9 from the Tampa 29-yard line. In the play-by-play, it was listed as a 19-yard completion. But it was so much more.
As has been the case in the past few weeks, Wilson was under duress the moment he took the snap, with pass rushers on him immediately. After spinning away from one Buc and sprinting away from another, Wilson fired an off-balance pass downfield toward the sidelines. For a moment it looked as though he was throwing it away. Instead, it was a pass intended for Baldwin, who channeled his inner ballet dancer, catching the ball on his toes to keep them inbounds. It was more graceful than any pirouette.
We practice that so much that it becomes second nature, he said. You feel the sideline. Its not something that we arent used to.
Hes also used to Wilson improvising after being flushed from the pocket and when to break off his route.
The 12th man actually does a wonderful job, Baldwin said. They start screaming really loud when Russell is out of the pocket. So I hear that and just look up at the big TV screen and see Russell is out of the pocket. I dont know which side it is, but I just turn back and try to make a play. Fortunately, he was on my side that time.
After Baldwins catch Wilson didnt wait around to let Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano challenge the ruling. He hurried the team to the line of scrimmage, ran a quick play and scored on a 10-yard keeper.
But the Baldwin catch made it all possible.
That was a really great play by Doug, Wilson said. I was able to spin out of it and extend the play. Thats what we talk about. We have to be great at that. Thats something that I do, extend the play and move around if its not there. Doug did a tremendous job of coming back to the football. He made a big-time catch.
If the play seemed familiar, its because the duo hooked up on an eerily similar completion in the season-opening win over Carolina. In both games, they were huge plays in comeback situations.
That was a big momentum getter for us, Wilson said. It gave us a little hope and let us know that lets just continue to move the football, lets continue to play, lets continue to stay in the moment. Dougs catch really lighted that fire.
Baldwin stoked the fire with the game-tying touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter. On third down and five from the Tampa 10-yard line with just less than two minutes to play, Baldwin caught a short pass from a hurried Wilson, slipped past a tackler and stepped into the end zone.
I knew they were going to bring pressure, Wilson said. Doug did a great job of finding the hole. I was able to sit in there long enough to deliver him the football. He made a great move and got into the end zone. Thats big time.
Baldwin wants to be big time for Wilson and the Seahawks in the future.
It was evident in the second half that he felt like he could come to me and trust me, Baldwin said. Hopefully we can build on that rapport and chemistry.
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