SEATTLE, Wash. — The night before the Seahawks' 26-6 Wild Card playoff win over the Detroit Lions, receiver Doug Baldwin sent a lengthy text message to fellow NFL wideout Steve Smith, the 16-year veteran who announced his retirement in true Smith-fashion earlier this week.
"I kind of wanted everything to die down after his retirement, so I sent him a long text message," Baldwin said Saturday night at CenturyLink Field. "We had a good conversation."
Smith, who wore No. 89 for 13 seasons with the Carolina Panthers and for the past three years with the Baltimore Ravens, has been someone the sixth-year pro Baldwin has looked up to ever since Smith came into the League back in 2001. He's the reason Baldwin wears No. 89 on his own back, with Baldwin noting, "a lot of my game I stole from Steve Smith."
"I just love the way that he played the game with passion and fire," Baldwin said. "You can say whatever you want about the guy, but he was a competitor. He fought for every inch on that football field and I wanted to be like that, so I try to emulate everything that my body can possibly emulate."
Smith's inspiration helped Seattle's leading receiver put up another big game. Against Detroit, Baldwin caught 11 of his 12 targets for 104 yards and a touchdown, as he surpassed Darrell Jackson to become the Seahawks' all-time leader in postseason receptions (50).
"Steve Smith is just a cerebral person," Baldwin said. "I've taken so much from the film I've watched of him, but just talking to him one of the things that he's always told me is just appreciate it. You can't take it for granted. So every time I'm out there I think about when I was playing little league sports, little league football, how much I loved it and just enjoyed it as a kid, and I don't want to take it for granted.
"Sometimes it can get hard, we struggle throughout the course of the season, have ups and downs, but you've got to be thankful that you're out there. That's one of the things that he's always preaching to me, is just be thankful for the moment that you have."
Baldwin's big day included an impressive 42-yard catch and a fourth-quarter grab that would rival teammate Paul Richardson for catch of the day. With less than four-and-a-half minutes to play in the game, quarterback Russell Wilson tossed a 3rd-and-9 ball Baldwin's way. The pass was a bit behind Baldwin, forcing him to readjust near the right sideline. He tried to corral the ball behind his body and gain control as he fell to the ground, but the pass was ruled incomplete.
Replays, though, showed that Baldwin had maintained possession, pinning the ball against his body. Baldwin urged Seattle head coach Pete Carroll to challenge the play.
"He came back saying I caught that ball," Carroll said. "There's been a couple times over the years when I have not gone with that. You couldn't see anything on other times, and he was right. I could not tell that he caught the ball. I give that one all to Doug. But, I'm not telling him that I'll do it next time, though. This time we did it."
Added cornerback Richard Sherman: "He makes the tough catches, he even catches with his butt sometimes."
Baldwin's butt catch — as many on social media would come to call it — kept what would be the Seahawks' final scoring drive of the day alive. Just two plays later, Wilson found Baldwin for a 13-yard touchdown, though the intended target, Baldwin would say, was actually teammate Jermaine Kearse.
"It was to Jermaine," Baldwin said. "I feel terrible about it."
His response garnered laughs from the media assembled, but Baldwin's tone was sincerely apologetic.
"You guys laugh, but we work really, really hard," Baldwin added. "Every opportunity and every target is few and far between. I wasn't where I was supposed to be. Fortunately enough, it worked out for us in terms of a touchdown, but I took a touchdown away from my brother and I feel terrible about it."
Baldwin said he told Kearse he was sorry about the play, as replays showed Seattle teammates sympathizing with a smiling Kearse after the fact. Nonetheless, the outcome was still six points for the Seahawks, with Wilson taking a more lighthearted tone, noting the touchdown pass "was supposed to be to whoever was going to catch it."
"Doug was just trying to make a play on it, so I'm just glad somebody got it," Wilson said. "That was a key part of the game and all those guys, I trust every single one of them. Jermaine, he's been so clutch for us in big situations. He is a consistent guy, you believe in him. Same thing for Doug and P. Rich, so it was great to have those guys out there."
Action photos from Wild Card weekend vs the Lions at CenturyLink Field.