Paul Richardson became an unlikely postseason star last weekend with a spectacular one-handed touchdown catch, a play he followed up with two more impressive receptions in the Seahawks' Wild Card playoff victory over the Detroit Lions.
But to fully appreciate the significance of that catch and that game for Richardson, you have to go back to his last appearance in a postseason game. Prior to Richardson's 2-yard touchdown Saturday, his last postseason target resulted in a torn ACL, an injury that took him out of a Divisional Round win over the Carolina Panthers two years ago and kept him from playing in Super Bowl XLIX as a rookie. In fact, because of the surgery that resulted from that injury, Richardson was unable to even travel to Arizona to be with his team for the Super Bowl.
That injury caused Richardson to miss the start of his second season, then when he finally did make it back, he injured his hamstring on his first and only catch of the 2015 season, a 40-yard sideline grab in a Week 10 loss to Arizona. Richardson opened this season fully healthy, but last year's emergence of Tyler Lockett meant playing time and targets were hard to come by the former second-round pick. But with Lockett on injured reserve with a leg injury, Richardson has stepped back into a bigger role and has looked like the player the Seahawks were hoping to get when they used their first pick of the 2014 draft on the speedy receiver out of Colorado. Richardson had eight catches for 82 yards and a touchdown in Seattle's final two regular-season games, then added three high-degree-of-difficulty catches for 48 yards against the Lions Saturday.
"He had a terrific football game and he's had a couple good weeks in a row," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "This is the kind of play we see from him in practice, so it's not unfamiliar. Some of the plays were circus-like but he has done that, so we're really fired up for him. He's been waiting a long while to help this team and feel significant about that impact and he's done that so we're looking forward to continue it. He's having a blast, I know that."
Added receiver Doug Baldwin: "He has just been patient. He has been really patient, very humble throughout the process and waiting for his opportunity and his moment, and it's here. Unfortunately we've had injuries that have attributed to that, but the type of person that Paul is, the work ethic everything he puts into it, whenever his name was going to be called, he was going to be ready. You saw that last week."
Considering the extremes between those two consecutive postseason targets—a torn ACL, then two years later, a spectacular touchdown—Richardson knows the importance of savoring every moment of this postseason. From watching a Super Bowl run from his couch post-surgery to being on the sideline while on injured reserve last postseason, to now being a huge part of the Seahawks offense this postseason, Richardson has had an interesting career thus far, but one that now has him in the place he has always wanted to be—contributing to the team in what the Seahawks hope can be a long postseason run.
"I'm happy to be a part of it," Richardson said. "We all signed up to help the Seahawks win, and we all have jobs to do. We've got to make plays, we just have to, especially when it's fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line. I'm happy to be a part of this team and a part of what we're trying to ultimately accomplish—a feat that they've accomplished before. It's amazing… (The Seahawks) have shown a lot of faith. They have a lot of options. I'm just happy that I could be a part of it. We're all called on to step up, and everybody has."
The Seahawks and Falcons have battled 16 times, including playoffs, since 1976, with Seattle owning 10 victories. The two teams meet again this Saturday in the Divisional Round of the playoffs at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.