The Seahawks view Doug Baldwin stealing from Jermaine Kearse as proof their locker-room harmony is exactly where it needs to be for a postseason run.
That view just about fits this often incongruous season.
OK, it wasn’t a crime. But Seattle’s No. 1 receiver was so hot late in Saturday night’s wild-card playoff victory over Detroit, he stole a touchdown pass from his teammate. Baldwin continued his shorter route deeper than quarterback Russell Wilson expected. He ran directly into the throw’s path intended for the more-open Kearse. Baldwin just snared the ball in the end zone a yard ahead of where the surprised Kearse was awaiting his score.
Immediately after banging into his teammate while securing his 11th catch of the game, one short of a Seahawks playoff record, Baldwin went over to Kearse in the back of the end zone to apologize.
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Almost everyone who saw the catch laughed.
“It was to Jermaine,” Baldwin said flatly. “I feel terrible about it.”
Everyone in the postgame interview room chuckled at that, too.
“You guys laugh. But we work really, really hard,” Baldwin said, not smiling. “Every opportunity and every target is few and far between.
“I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. And fortunately enough, it worked out for us in terms of the touchdown. But I took a touchdown away from my brother and I feel terrible about it.”
On his weekly show on Seattle’s 710-AM radio Monday, coach Pete Carroll loved hearing Baldwin’s explanation.
“The most important thing is what he is telling you. He’s telling you how much he feels for his partner there,” Carroll said on the “Brock and Salk” show. “That is so special to teams, when you really have it. And we’ve talked a lot about that, working to develop that. Being vulnerable enough to develop that with the guys around you so that you can really go to places that are special.
“We’re there. We’re in the right place right now.”
Right now, the NFC West-champion Seahawks (11-5-1) are on their way to Atlanta for Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game at the high-flying, South division-champion Falcons (11-5).
That locker-room harmony Carroll is describing this week comes after a December full of Richard Sherman shouts, words and actions portrayed the opposite. That and losses at Green Bay and to Arizona at home that cost Seattle the conference’s No. 2 seed and a first-round playoff bye left many opining Seattle’s locker room, or at least the Seahawks’ juju, may be fracturing through an inconsistent regular season.
Carroll was asked Monday what was behind Sherman challenging 710-AM host Jim Moore last month, days after the Pro Bowl cornerback yelled at offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Carroll on the sideline about throwing from the 1-yard line against the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 15.
Sherman has since declared he’s done with providing the media the “privilege” of weekly press conferences, then that he won’t talk to local media members, at all.
“I think he got backed into a corner a little bit with some of the questioning and stuff, and he took an edge to it,” Carroll said.
“He’s in great spirits now. He’s in great shape, great relationship with everyone around here. He’s going to handle it and go quietly as he can, because he doesn’t want to be a distraction.”
Of the media’s reporting of Sherman’s eventful December, the coach said from Seahawks headquarters Monday: “They took off with the Richard thing and made it into something that was not going on in here.
“That’s why Richard was miffed. He knew that he was taken, in a number of cases, kind of to the wrong place that didn’t represent what was going on.
“But we are vulnerable to that kind of criticism because we said some things and did some things that put us out there. As long as we are OK here, that’s all that matters.”
Sherman spoke briefly behind a podium following Saturday’s win over Detroit. He made a statement, took a question from the reporter he said he would — ESPN’s Ed Werder — then one from the team’s flagship radio station and from the team’s website.
One of the few comments of substance from the previously fully-accessible and insightful Sherman was about Saturday’s rematch with Atlanta, which has the NFL’s top-ranked passing game and offense.
The Seahawks beat the Falcons 26-24 on Oct. 16, after leading 17-3 early. Atlanta took a 24-17 lead amid confusion and miscommunication between Sherman and his teammates in Seattle’s secondary during the Falcons’ 21-point third quarter rally at CenturyLink Field.
“It helps us a lot,” Sherman said of having played the Falcons this season. “We understand them and we understand what they like to do.
“They have an incredible, dynamic offense, a ton of playmakers. We’re looking forward to the challenge. I think we felt like we gave them a couple in the game we played them previously — mental errors, miscommunications, etcetera, in the third quarter. We look forward to going back and it being a great ball game.”
Then he said so long and walked off.
Sherman and Carroll met in the days following Sherman threatening Moore last month, saying he could “ruin” the radio host’s career and have his Seahawks media credential revoked. The week of the Sherman-Carroll talk, Carroll held a team meeting that Sherman on Dec. 28 called the team’s now pretty much annual “Kumbaya” talk.
Each of the two Seahawks’ runs to Super Bowls the past three seasons came after team meetings that the players have called “clear-the-air” sessions.
In May 2013, then veteran fullback Michael Robinson called a team meeting to address the spate of five players getting cited by the NFL for using performance-enhancing drugs over the previous two seasons. The message in that minicamp meeting was “we’re better than this.”
The Seahawks went 13-3 that ensuing season and thrashed Denver in the Super Bowl 43-8 to win the franchise’s first league title.
In October 2014, the Seahawks cleared more air in the wake of trading disruptive wide receiver Percy Harvin. That stunning deal went down while they were getting on the team’s bus to the airport to fly to a game they ended up losing at St. Louis. Harvin had fought, physically, with Baldwin before that previous season’s Super Bowl, among other locker-room noise.
That season’s team had another meeting. Carroll called it among his leadership “council” of select veterans following a loss in mid-November at Kansas City that left Seattle three games behind Arizona in its division.
Those Seahawks rallied to win the West, won their next eight games, and reached Super Bowl 49. There they came within 1 yard and Russell Wilson’s interception to Malcolm Butler from beating New England for a second consecutive title.
We’ll continue to find out Saturday in Atlanta where this latest meeting following Sherman’s eventful December, this latest example of being “in the right place” in the locker room, will take the Seahawks.
Carroll told 710-AM that rookie running back C.J. Prosise will practice Tuesday. Prosise hasn’t practiced or played since he broke his shoulder blade Nov. 20 against Philadelphia shortly after his 72-yard touchdown run.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle
Seahawks’ next opponent
ATLANTA FALCONS (11-5)
1:30 p.m. Saturday, Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Against the Seahawks: The Falcons have lost 10 of the previous 16 meetings, including Oct. 16 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle 26-24 — after Atlanta rallied from 17-3 down to reach a 24-21 lead. Atlanta won the only previous playoff meeting, 30-28, on Jan. 13, 2013, in the divisional round at the Georgia Dome. Rookie Russell Wilson rallied the Seahawks with three touchdowns in 12 1/2 minutes to put Seattle ahead 28-27 with 31 seconds left. But Matt Ryan withstood the Seahawks blitzing for huge passes to get Atlanta in position for the winning field goal by Matt Bryant with 8 seconds to go. This is only the third time in nine years the Falcons have hosted the Seahawks.
Line: Falcons by 4 1/2.
What to know: Atlanta is the present-day, Air Coryell San Diego Chargers offense. The Falcons finished the regular season with 540 points (33.8 per game). That tied the 2000 Rams for the seventh-most in an NFL season. No other team came within 71 points of Atlanta’s total this season. The league average this season was 364 points (Seattle scored 354). … The Falcons scored 30 or more points 11 times in 16 games, third-most of any NFL season. They scored 40 points five times, second-most all-time. … Atlanta led the NFL with 6.7 yards per play and scored 3.2 points per drive. … The Falcons were second in total offense (415.8 yards per game), fifth in rushing (120.5 yards) and third in passing (295.3 yards). … That win in January 2013 over Seattle is Ryan’s only victory in the playoffs. The Falcons are 1-4 in the postseason with Ryan as their QB. That includes their loss to the 49ers in the NFC championship game in the week after beating the Seahawks in the divisional round during the 2012 season. … Ryan just got named All-Pro for the first time, edging Tom Brady in the vote of 50 national panelists. … Ryan’s 9.26 yards per pass attempt was the highest in NFL history over a 16-game regular season. … Ryan was also the league’s top thrower in the regular season with 38 touchdowns, just seven interceptions and a 117.1 rating. Those were the most TD passes, fewest interceptions and, by far, the highest passer rating in his nine NFL seasons. … Ryan joined Brady and Aaron Rodgers as the only NFL players to throw for at least 3,500 yards in a season with fewer than 10 interceptions. … Ryan completed 69.9 percent of his throws for 4,944 yards, just behind league leader Drew Brees (70.0 and 5,208) in both categories. … Ryan completed 27 of 42 passes for 335 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in Atlanta’s loss at Seattle on Oct. 16. … The Seahawks sacked Ryan four times that day, tied for the most he got dumped in a game this season. … The Falcons were 24th in allowing sacks this season. … Julio Jones had 83 catches for an NFL-best 100.6 yards per game. His 27 catches of 20 or more yards and five receptions of at least 40 yards were both second-most in the NFL. … Jones had seven catches on nine targets for 139 yards and a 36-yard touchdown against the Seahawks in October. … But the Falcons don’t just throw. Devonta Freeman rushed for 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns during the regular season. He also caught 54 passes. … No. 2 running back Tevin Coleman ran for eight more scores. … Seahawks Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett is likely still fuming at Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews. Matthews’ cut block into Bennett’s legs during that October game led to Bennett having arthroscopic knee surgery and missing five games. … Atlanta’s defense was 25th overall, 18th against the run and 27th against the pass in the regular season. The Falcons were 27th in points allowed, 25.4 per game. … Vic Beasley was crazy good most of the regular season with a league-leading 15½ sacks as an outside linebacker/edge rusher in Atlanta’s 4-3 defense head coach Dan Quinn brought over before the 2015 season from Seattle, where he was the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator. … The Falcons lost Pro Bowl cornerback, Wilson grad and University of Washington star Desmond Trufant to a torn pectoral muscle in Week 9. Trufant blitzed for Atlanta’s only sack of Russell Wilson in that October game in Seattle.
Quotable: “I know that you know that I know — there’s definitely some of that. … Hopefully for everyone listening that will be the last question we hear about it this week,” — Quinn on playing his former Seahawks again.
Greg Bell: firstname.lastname@example.org