Above all — and for him, it was a ton on Sunday — Doug Baldwin was proud.
Proud not only to set a career high with nine receptions in the Seahawks’ opener. Or of his race to the back corner of the end zone to catch Russell Wilson’s pass for the winning score with 31 seconds to go in the 12-10 win over Miami at sunny CenturyLink Field.
Baldwin was proud of how he and his 52 Seahawks teammates stood before the game as much as at the end of it. During the national anthem, they had arms interlocked, side by side, from the 25-yard line to the opposite 30. They stood in front of a giant United States flag that stretched the length of the field.
Their much-debated “demonstration of unity” was the Seahawks’ response to weeks of national controversy that started with San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick sitting during anthems before preseason games last month, to protest racial inequality in our country.
“I don’t know how to describe it, honestly,” Baldwin, Seattle’s team leader and Stanford graduate, said. “When they’re rolling out the flag and you hear the whole stadium chanting ‘Seahawks!’ it’s a very proud moment.
“It’s unifying our team but also it’s unifying our stadium. It’s unifying our communities. It’s unifying our state. And hopefully it’s going to unify our country to where there’s a message that needs to be heard.”
Criticism was already starting before nightfall Sunday that what the Seahawks did wasn’t in the spirit of Kaepernick’s jarring acts. Those got the entire country talking about race relations — and the appropriateness of statements during national anthems.
Baldwin’s postgame point was the Seahawks are showing unity, and then acting. He said the players in the process of meeting with Seattle mayor Ed Murray and with police chiefs across the state of Washington.
“To listen,” Baldwin said.
He encouraged all of us, superjocks and Joe Cabbies alike, to seek to make a difference in their communities.
“You heard us. Now listen to us,” Baldwin said. “The emotion that I had at that time was one of being proud in that moment.
“We’ve got so far to go. And we’ve come so far.”
So has Baldwin. He entered the league in 2011 as an undrafted free agent. He scrapped to make the Seahawks on special teams as a rookie. Last season he co-led the NFL with 14 touchdown catches, a Seattle franchise record.
Sunday was his first game since he signed his $46 million contract extension.
It may have been his most memorable of his 89 career regular-season and playoff games.
NEW LINE’S DAY
The Seahawks had new starters at four of the offensive line’s five positions; right tackle Garry Gilliam was the lone returner.
As expected, previous backup right tackle J’Marcus Webb started at right guard for rookie Germain Ifedi. The first-round draft choice “twisted” his ankle in practice Wednesday and is out indefinitely; Carroll said Sunday he had no update on Ifedi.
In the first half, the line had three holding penalties. The second holding call of the half on new left tackle Bradley Sowell started a 2-minute drill and had Seattle on its own 8. Gilliam had a false-start foul. Russell Wilson got sacked twice in the half, once after scrambling up the line for 0 yards.
Gilliam got beaten inside by Ndamukong Suh for the sack in the third quarter on which Wilson injured his right ankle. On third and 1 in that period, Thomas Rawls got stopped up the middle behind center Justin Britt for no gain. The Seahawks felt compelled to throw on fourth and 1 — incomplete.
In the fourth quarter, left guard Mark Glowinski stepped back and onto Wilson’s injured ankle. The quarterback fell and tried to flip his handoff back to Rawls. Miami recovered the fumble.
Seattle rushed for 112 yards on 32 carries. That was 30 yards fewer than the Seahawks averaged per game on the ground last season.
“Obviously, we have a lot of work to do,” Britt said. “But it’s hard to win, and we’re grateful for the victory.”
Sowell, signed in March, started for the first time since Dec. 29, 2013, when he was with Arizona.
“It felt good,” Sowell said. “I felt I protected Russ really well. The run game could be a little bit better.
“We had a few penalties here and there but that was a great defensive line. They had some big ol’ dudes. But for the most part, I thought we stopped the penalties and stayed on time.
“It’s a lot easier to fix stuff after a win than it is after a loss.”
Rookie third-down back C.J. Prosise showed he knows his new job on his first catch. The former Notre Dame wide receiver turned his shoulders straight up field, lowered them and bulled across the line to gain for a first down in the opening quarter. After a run for a loss of 2, he went into the locker room with what Carroll said was a sprained wrist.
He returned during the second quarter. But for the 2-minute drive at the end of the half for which he’d normally have played, Prosise watched and Christine Michael played.
Prosise was out the rest of the game.
EXTRA POINTS: Rookie long snapper Nolan Frese continues to be an adventure for place-kick holder Jon Ryan. The punter had deftly to reach high and scoop low for snaps on Steven Hauschka’s two made field goals. The extra point Hauschka missed in the final minute, though, appeared to be a good snap. ... Rookie tight end Nick Vannett was inactive because of his high-ankle sprain. Also inactive: CB Tharold Simon, rookie RB Alex Collins, LB Dewey McDonald, rookie G Rees Odhiambo and DT Garrison Smith.