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Tate’s TDs also come with style points
It’s not just that Golden Tate has more touchdown receptions in the first nine games this season than he had in his first two seasons with the Seahawks.
It’s not even that Tate’s five TD catches have come in three games, or that one was a game-winner and two others gave the Seahawks the lead for good.
It’s what Tate has done to make those catches, or get into the end zone after making them.
There was the controversial play where he wrestled the ball from Packers’ safety M.D. Jennings in the north end zone at CenturyLink Field on the final snap of the Monday night game against Green Bay in Week 3. There was the 13-yarder on a third-and-8 play in the third quarter of the Week 5 win at Carolina, where Tate – the outside receiver in three-receiver cluster on the right side of the formation – took a pass from Russell Wilson at the 7-yard line, bounced off one defender at the 4 and another at the goal line to give the Seahawks a lead they would not relinquish. There was his 6-yarder from Wilson against Minnesota on Sunday – again in the north end zone at CenturyLink – where Vikings cornerback A.J. Jefferson not only got a hand on the ball before Tate had two on it, but was falling onto Tate’s legs as he controlled the pass.
Does this guy ever make a “normal” touchdown catch?
Asked that question, Tate broke into a large smile and then said, “Actually, growing up playing football and playing at Notre Dame, I don’t like the easy touchdowns. I don’t like the ones where you make the easy catch and just walk in.
“I want to work for mine. That’s just how I’ve always been. Those are the most fun, when you actually have to make a guy miss, or break a tackle, or jump over somebody, or catch it over someone’s head. Those are the most fun for me.”
Whatever works. And Tate’s sequence of highlight-reel – and yes, fun – scoring plays definitely is working. Entering Sunday’s game against the New York Jets at CenturyLink Field, Tate’s five TD catches not only lead the Seahawks – by one over flanker Sidney Rice – only 10 players in the NFL have more.
And those 10 players have a lot more receptions than Tate, whose five scoring plays have come among his 24 catches. The Bengals’ A.J. Green and Steelers’ Mike Wallace lead the league with eight TD cacthes, but they also have 51 and 40 receptions. The Bears’ Brandon Marshall (59 receptions), Giants’ Victor Cruz (57) and Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski (43) have seven TD catches, and more catches than Tate. Checking in with six TD catches are the Packers’ Randall Cobb (45 receptions), Saints’ Marquez Colston (44), Steelers’ Heath Miller (39) and Buccaneers’ Vincent Jackson (37), again on more receptions than Tate has.
You get the picture; Tate is doing more with less. And doing it from the split end position, where the starter the past two seasons was the 6-foot-5 Mike Williams and the Seahawks prefer a bigger body. Tate is 5-10.
“You would say Golden is a shorter guy in stature, but he plays really big,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “He can go up and get the ball. We feel great throwing jump balls to him. He has a really good knack of catching the ball in the air, and Golden has very strong hands.
“So if we can get the ball to him, and get it in his hands, that’s when he’s really dynamic.”
That’s why Tate is here. That’s why the Seahawks selected him in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft and have been patient as he was catching 21 passes as a rookie and 35 last season – with three touchdown catches.
“The emergence of Golden is probably one of the best things that have happened,” coach Pete Carroll has said, and repeated. “We are really going with him, and we really believe in him. He’s a starter for us and he shows all the time why.
“He just needed the grooming time.”
Now that he is starting, and producing, Tate is setting his sights on even more.
“That’s the type of player I want to be,” he said. “I want to be that exciting player, like you never know what No. 81 is going to do. You don’t know if he’s going to take a 3-yard route, take it across the field and turn it into a 15-yard gain.
“That’s just my style of play. I’m just always looking for any crease, or anyway I feel like I can make a big play. I’m trying to do that. The organization and my teammates, that’s what they expect from me. They expect me to go out and make a play – whether it’s blocking in the running game, or catching the ball, or running the ball on a reverse, or throwing the ball.
“Whatever it is, they depend on me to come through some way.”
Being a student of the game even before the Seahawks drafted him, Wilson needed no introduction to Tate’s big-play/special-play ability.
“I always watched Golden Tate in college, and he was the best receiver in college at one point,” Wilson said. “And from Day One when I got here, Golden and Sidney and I we all worked together. Just watching Golden’s explosive ability to go up and get a football and make people miss – he’s extremely quick, he’s got cat-like senses – he’s really good at making people miss and just moving around.
“It’s great to watch him play, and make plays.”