When Tyler Lockett saw one-on-one coverage on the sixth play of the Seahawks' first possession Sunday, he knew he had one job—beat 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward and make a play.
"It was straight man-to-man, and I had a go route, so I just had to try to take advantage of it," Lockett said.
As he has done so often in his rookie season, Lockett indeed ran past Ward, got open and hauled in a pass from Russell Wilson for a 24-yard touchdown. Lockett then punctuated the score with the touchdown celebration usually used by injured teammate Ricardo Lockette, followed by throwing up an "L" with his hand for "Love our brothers," something Lockette did while being carted off the field in Dallas.
A long touchdown catch that took advantage of his speed is what people have come to expect from Lockett, a third-round pick from Kansas State who has become a big part of Seattle's offense in addition to being the team's standout kick and punt returner. Lockett's second touchdown, however, was a bit more surprising, as Lockett caught a slant in the red zone, broke one tackle at the 5-yard line, then powered through two more San Francisco defenders at the goal line for his second touchdown of the game, marking the first time a Seahawks rookie has recorded two receiving touchdowns in a game since Joey Galloway in 1995.
Lockett's speed, route-running and sure hands have been obvious from Day 1, but until Sunday, not many people realized that the team's smallest player—Lockett is listed as 182 pounds—packed such a punch.
"He bowled over defenders," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "In his college film, he's a very aggressive kid, that's why he's such a good returner. That was a really exciting run, to see him take advantage of the opportunity. He's so quick, that he can catch guys when they're not quite ready for the hit. He got physical on him at the goal line, and it was pretty cool."
At this point, little that Lockett does should come as a surprise. A player regularly hailed by coaches as one of the team's hardest workers, Lockett has been a steady contributor all season. After the Seahawks traded up to pick Lockett in the third round, Carroll talked about Lockett as a return specialist first, and then said they'd wait and see what he could bring at receiver. Well it turns out Lockett plays with a veteran's savvy at receiver while also being the dynamic return man the Seahawks were hoping to land when they made what for them is a rare decision to give up picks to move up in the draft.
Lockett now ranks fourth on the team in receiving yards with 308, trailing Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham and Jermaine Kearse, he is tied for third in receptions with 25, and his five touchdowns are a team-high. Lockett nearly had one more touchdown Sunday, but Wilson overthrew him by a bit on a deep ball late in the game, one of the only misses of the day for the quarterback who was otherwise very sharp.
"You see Tyler Lockett and the things that he can do; he's so quick, so fast," Wilson said. "On the first drive of the game, he makes an incredible touchdown catch there. He's a player who can do it all for us."
Lockett came to Seattle confident in his ability, and now that confidence should only grow after several big plays, and just as importantly, many more routine ones that have shown his coaches and teammates he belongs at this level.
"Just being able to understand and know I have their trust, it gives me more confidence to know, 'hey, I can do this,'" Lockett said. "If they believe in me, I should believe in myself just as much."
The sun was out, the 12s were out, and the Seahawks got it done at CenturyLink Field, sweeping their NFC West rival, San Francisco 49ers for the season with a 29-13 win.