While the Seahawks fell short of their ultimate goal this postseason, one positive the team can glean from the past few weeks that it can carry into next year is the play of Paul Richardson, who in Seattle's Divisional Round playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons made four catches for a game-high 83 yards, including deep grabs of 33 and 40 yards.
It was the latest in a string of impressive performances for Richardson, who since seeing his role increase following the season-ending leg injury to fellow receiver Tyler Lockett had been making the most of his increased snaps. Richardson recorded 13 catches for 206 yards while playing behind Lockett and starters Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse through Seattle's first 14 games, but over the team's final four contests to close the season he tallied 15 catches for 213 yards and two touchdowns, including a how-did-he-do-that one-handed scoring grab in the Seahawks' Wild Card playoff win over the Detroit Lions.
For Richardson, Seattle's first pick in the 2014 draft who made significant contributions during the tail end of his rookie year but went on to suffer knee and hamstring injuries that forced him to miss a majority of his sophomore campaign, finishing his third year in the NFL strong gives him a good feeling going forward.
"It means a lot," Richardson said this past weekend from his locker at the Georgia Dome following the Seahawks' season-ending loss. "Before the game I talked to my uncle, father, and mother. They all prayed for me. I just asked God to shine through me. I asked him to use me as his instrument and he did. I just appreciate him using me as much as he could. I was able to come through."
Quarterback Russell Wilson, who spent last offseason training with Richardson, credited Richardson's play down the stretch to the effort he put forth on the practice field, where the acrobatic grabs Richardson has put on display in recent weeks have been routine.
"Paul Richardson had a great week of practice again, once again this week," Wilson said after Seattle's loss at Atlanta. "The past few weeks he's stepped up to the plate and done an unbelievable job. We want to use that for acceleration into next year. He's got great speed, he's got great hands, he's got great ability, loves the game, he's passionate, he had a great offseason. … It's good to see that. That's a positive. That's another positive."
Added Seattle head coach Pete Carroll: "I think the really great part about Paul is he finally has the chance to play on a consistent basis, and he showed up."
Richardson said his play the past few weeks gives him "a lot of confidence" heading into the 2017 season, when according to Carroll, Lockett "should make it" back in time for the start of the year.
"I know the team is waiting on Tyler to get back, that's a big factor on our offense," Richardson said. "So it was good for us to try to finish the postseason as strong as we can. I know the team will be happy to get Ty back and I'll be happy to see him recover."
Even if Lockett returns in time for the start of next season to reclaim his role in Seattle's offense, what Richardson showed late in the year should still serve as an encouraging sign for the Seahawks, and with Richardson's play in mind, Carroll said when it comes to his team's receiving corps next year the club will "come back with the thought of battling and seeing who's going to get more play time."
"Going into the next year we're just counting on him being a big factor," Carroll said of Richardson. "I think he was able to give us the same sparks that Tyler gave us and we think the world of Tyler. It's a good looking group. He made some fantastic plays and I'm glad that he knows that going into the offseason and we know that going into the offseason. ... He did a great job for himself and he helped us."
Team photographer Rod Mar shares exclusive behind-the-scenes images from the Seattle Seahawks' trip to Atlanta for the Divisional Round of the playoffs against the Falcons.