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Former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren once explained that if a wide receiver showed enough, and did it consistently, he would devise a package of plays just for that player.
Brandon Stokley can go that one better. When he arrived in late September, he already had plays in the Seahawks’ new offense named after him.
“We were running a lot of these plays that were, we called them ‘Stokley plays,’ ” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck explained. “Because this offense is, in large part, the Mike Shanahan 2008 Denver Broncos offense that Jeremy Bates is running.”
Bates, in his first season as the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator, was calling plays for Shanahan in Denver in ’08. Stokley played in that offense, as well, working the slot with Bobby Engram-like precision to catch 49 passes for 528 yards and three touchdowns.
“There’s a lot of plays that are kind of that slot receiver, ‘Get a feel for what the defense is doing and win,’ ” Hasselbeck said. “And we tried a bunch of people there and they were pretty good; they were alright. But they weren’t ‘Stokley,’ as they would call it.
“We call that guy the ‘Zebra,’ the ‘E’ – we call him different names. But when the plays were getting installed in the spring, it was ‘the Stokley.’ ”
That’s why the Seahawks finally put in a call to Stokley, who was released by the Broncos on Sept. 14 but wasn’t ready to play until late September because of a groin injury.
Stokley immediately showed why the wait was worth it. He practiced for three days with his new team – but in a familiar offense – and then caught four passes for a 15.5-yard average in that week’s game against the Rams in St. Louis.
And how does that happen? Stokley is not the biggest guy (6 foot, 192 pounds), nor the fastest. He is among the oldest (34), however, having played four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, four more with the Indianapolis Colts and three with the Broncos before coming to the Seahawks.
“The background in our offense is what’s really been a factor for him helping us,” coach Pete Carroll said. “Brandon is so familiar with Jeremy and the terminology and the principles. And he was such a good route runner, such an effective guy using their system. It’s just stuck with him.”
Which is why Stokley continues to stick out in the Seahawks’ passing game. Enter Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Bears in Chicago, he has 35 receptions for 427 yards – including four for a season-high 73 yards and a 45-yard touchdown in Saturday night’s stunning upset of the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints at Qwest Field.
Twenty-five of Stokley’s receptions – or 71 percent – have produced first downs, including a run of 15 in a row over a five-game span. Thirteen have come on third downs, and 11 – or 85 percent – have produced first downs.
As Forrest Gump’s mama might put it, “Clutch is as clutch does.”
Hasselbeck is just glad that Stokley is making those clutch catches for the Seahawks.
“He was the missing part, really,” Hasselbeck said of Stokley being slotted into the passing game. “So him coming in was really a blessing. I mean, the Broncos cut him and he got healthy and he’s meant a lot to our team.
“He’s definitely helped. He’s helped me a lot.”
Like on the longest of Hasselbeck’s four TD passes against the Saints. The QB had other options, but went for the third one – Stokley, who somehow had gotten past a trio of Saints defenders after coming out of a three-receiver cluster on the left side of the line.
As Stokley put it, “They forgot about the slow white guy.”
But no one can forget about what obtaining Stokley to run those “Stokley plays” has meant to the Seahawks.
“He’s an unusually gifted guy,” Carroll said.