SEATTLE, Wash. — When Paul Richardson opened the scoring in Saturday's Wild Card playoff game between the Seahawks and Detroit Lions with what replays would confirm to be one incredible-looking touchdown, Pete Carroll didn't think his third-year receiver had made the play. All the Seattle head coach saw was a flag being thrown for defensive pass interference, and veteran receiver Doug Baldwin racing toward the referee.
"As a matter of fact, I didn't think he caught it and I was wondering why Doug was running down the sidelines so fast," Carroll said following his team's 26-6 playoff win that ensures the club a spot in the Divisional Round next weekend at the home of the Atlanta Falcons. "What the heck happened? I was looking for the P.I., which we were getting, so I was resigned to that.
"I was thinking Doug lost his mind," Carroll added. "I thought he was going after that official or something. He was running down to celebrate with Paul."
The game-altering play came midway through the second quarter with the game locked 0-0, and with the Seahawks facing a 4th-and-goal situation from Detroit's 2-yard-line. Quarterback Russell Wilson faked a handoff to running back Thomas Rawls before dropping back and floating a pass to the right corner of the end zone for Richardson, who reached his left arm around Lions safety Tavon Wilson — the one called for interference on the play — to make the one-handed score.
"That was an unbelievable catch, one of the best catches you'll see, probably ever," said Wilson, who finished 23-of-30 for 224 yards and two touchdowns, tying former Seattle signal caller Matt Hasselbeck for the most touchdowns passes in franchise postseason history (18). "He works at it and he can catch anything you throw to him."
The acrobatic touchdown catch would prove to be just the start of what Richardson had in store for Seahawks fans at CenturyLink Field. He elevated to haul in an impressive 19-yard grab later in the second quarter to keep a drive that would end in a Seahawks field goal alive, and facing a 3rd-and-5 play late in the fourth quarter, Richardson made another big catch using one hand while drawing another pass interference, this time recording a 27-yard gain to keep what would end up being a touchdown drive alive.
"Paul has always been able to do those kinds of catches. He's been a big-play guy for us ever since I can remember him coming on the field," Baldwin said of the Seahawks' 2014 second-round pick who's game-time has been limited the past two years because of knee and hamstring setbacks. "He's had unfortunate events in terms of injuries and he's been trying to stay on the field. But when he's out there, he's pretty dominant, so we expected that out of him.
"He had two huge, clutch catches that we needed. I couldn't be more happy, more proud of him."
Richardson, who the Seahawks took with their first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, has seen his snaps increase in recent weeks after the season-ending injury to receiver Tyler Lockett.
"Boy, we have not missed a beat," Carroll said of Richardson playing a more prominent role offensively. "He has not had the opportunities early in the year, it's hard to get five guys in the rotation, and Tyler had a fantastic season for us. But as soon as he got his opportunity, he has just jumped at it and he's been spectacular.
"He's the guy we hoped he would be when we picked him a while back. He's really done a ton of good things, he just hasn't had as many chances. Now that he's getting them, we couldn't be more excited about continuing to include him in the plans."
Richardson said it's a moment he's "definitely" been waiting for, but he hasn't necessarily been doing anything different in an attempt to step his game up, noting, "I've just been me."
"They brought me in to make plays," the former Colorado standout said. "And that's what I came here to do."
And while Richardson may be benefiting from offensive opportunities that used to go Lockett's way, he's made a point to pay tribute to the Seahawks' injured receiver and return specialist by donning Lockett's No. 16 on his towel during each remaining game.
"I told Tyler I was going to bring it with me on the field for the rest of the season. It means a lot to me," Richardson said. "That's like my little brother. I've got a lot of love for him and I know how much he invests in this team and how much we love him. It's really a tribute to all the players that are hurt that helped us get to this point.
"We want all them to come out there and be a part of this, because they helped us get here."