A Golden moment

Posted Dec 6, 2011

Golden Tate has had to wait his turn, but the second-year wide receiver made the most of his opportunities in his first NFL start and will get more in Monday night's game against the Rams.

After one play, Pete Carroll confers with Golden Tate about the placement of his hands after the second-year receiver could not handle a low throw. After another, the Seahawks’ coach discusses with Tate the proper route adjustment on a hot read. After still another, Carroll approaches the receiver to give him a fist-bump because Tate had leaped over a cornerback to make a tough catch along the sideline.

These practice-field exchanges between coach and player have been played out on a regular basis since the Seahawks selected Tate in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft, as Carroll tries to squeeze out every ounce of Tate’s potent potential and also smooth the rough edges from his ample game.

Preaching, practice, potential and production converged in the south end zone at CenturyLink Field on Thursday night when Tate made a reaching grab of a pass from Tarvaris Jackson and then got his feet down for an 11-yard touchdown in the Seahawks’ 31-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I owe that to coach Carroll being on my butt, and Kip (receivers coach Kippy Brown) being on my butt,” Tate said. “Even though in practice some people might think it doesn’t matter, but the small things like that create good habits.

“I remember one time in practice, I made the catch but I didn’t get my feet in. Kip and Pete were like, ‘Get your feet in. We know you can make this play.’ So just working hard all the time I think is going to help me succeed in this league.”

Carroll is going to do everything in his power to make sure that happens, and we all know how much power the executive VP of football operations and head coach has in shaping not only the roster but each player on the roster.

“The first thing is, I’ve believed in his talent from the day he stepped on our field,” Carroll said of his hands-on efforts with Tate. “We took him high and I’ve loved his natural playing ability and his ball sense in general, and we have been on him to just …”

Carroll paused half-a-blink before adding, “I think things have come so easy for him in his career before getting here. If you remember, he played baseball in the spring (at Notre Dame) and didn’t have spring football and didn’t have all of his fundamentals at hand and had been able to just kind of go play the game.”

Tate was the Golden Domer with the Golden name, and a golden game to match. He caught 157passes for 2,707 yards and 26 touchdowns in 37 games for the Irish. But at the NFL level, everyone can play the game, so it’s the little things that made the big difference.

Since arriving in Seattle, Tate has been trying to hone the nuances of his game to the next level while playing at the next level. Not an easy thing to do. Last season, he caught 21 passes and averaged 12.6 yards on 16 punt returns. The splashy plays where his athletic ability just took over were there – he had a 52-yard reception and a 63-yard punt return. But the consistency wasn’t.

This season, more was expected from Tate. But the club also acquired Sidney Rice in free agency and hit on rookie free agent Doug Baldwin, who was doing the same things as Tate during the preseason but with better production.

Tate had 16 receptions and a couple of touchdowns going into the Eagles game, when he got his first NFL start because Rice had been placed on injured reserve and Ben Obomanu was not completely healthy. Tate responded with four catches, tying his career high; for 47 yards, just short of his career high (52, on one catch). In addition to the TD, he also had a 25-yarder where he displayed his ability to run with the ball.

But it was that TD catch that stood out, producing points for Tate as well as his team.

“It was a beautiful play,” Carroll said. “Great throw and a great catch and great body-control job of staying inbounds. There are more of those in him. He’s got tons of those.” 

Tate just shrugs and smiles before offering, “My mentality is the same every play – I want to execute, first off, the way they want me to; and I’m going to be in the right place of where they want me to be. And if Jack looks at me or throws the ball at me, I’m going to compete. I’m going to compete to get the ball and once I’ve got the ball I like to think I turn into a running back – juking guys, keeping my legs moving, just playing hard.

“So there was nothing I really did that was spectacular, other than execute the plays the way the coaches wanted it.”

But that is spectacularly important in Tate’s continuing development. He needs to continue to go out and do just that, starting with Monday night’s game against the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field.

“It took us a little longer to get him to emerge,” Carroll said. “He needed to take a few steps back to move forward. I love him and I have been hard on him. I’m always on his butt about something.

“But however he takes it is OK, it doesn’t matter. But it’s because he’s really good and he’s going to be a really good player for us. I’m just trying to get it to come to the surface.”

Like it did against the Eagles, and the other times he has flashed this season – an 8-yard TD catch in the opener against the 49ers; a 24-yarder on third down in the fourth-quarter drive to ice the Week 10 upset of the Ravens; and a 15-yard TD catch against the Redskins.

“He’s learning the offense,” Jackson said. “He’s got an aggressive mindset. He’s confident. He’s always been a confident player. But he’s making plays day in and day out at practice, and it’s carried over to the game. Whenever he gets in and he touches the ball he usually makes a play.

“So we want to utilize that.”

Coach and QB definitely are on the same page with that assessment.

“I can’t wait to figure out other ways to get the ball in his hands,” Carroll said. “You can see when he runs with the ball, he’s special. He just has this desire and will about carrying the football that he’s not going down.”

That’s because Tate already has waited so long for his career to take an upswing.