Tyler Lockett had a fantasy fulfilled in front of a franchise-record home crowd of 69,002 fans in Week 3 at Seattle's CenturyLink Field.
The Seahawks' rookie wideout put on his performer's face in the first quarter of Sunday's eventual 26-0 win over Chicago, as Seattle used a bit of misdirection to take advantage of a punt from the Bears' Pat O'Donnell.
"The biggest thing was that it was going to be on me to be a great actor," said Lockett. "I always wanted to be an actor, so I got my first gig."
When the ball left O'Donnell's boot, the Seahawks shifted their punt coverage toward Lockett, who was back deep to receive what would have been his second punt return of the day. Much of the Bears' special teams unit followed, but there was one problem. The ball never got to Lockett, who tumbled to the ground on purpose as the Bears' coverage team started to collapse around him.
Instead, O'Donnell's punt was caught on the opposite side of the field by Richard Sherman, who had sprinted back from his "jammer" spot at the line of scrimmage to haul in the punt and bring it back 64 yards up the Seattle sideline to help set up the Seahawks' first points of the game - a 31-yard field goal from kicker Steven Hauschka.
"Really it was just to try to make sure everyone ran with me," Lockett said. "Luckily, I was able to do that, and after Sherman got the ball, he just did what he did."
Lockett, in his first year out of Kansas State, wasn't around when the Seahawks were bested by a similar punt-return trick that went for a Rams touchdown in St. Louis last season. But Lockett was plenty familiar with the play.
"That's why we came up with it," Lockett admitted.
The All-Pro cornerback Sherman said it was a play the Seahawks knew they were going to run all week, but one they practiced for just two days leading up to Sunday's home-opener against Chicago.
"I was pretty excited," Sherman said. "You never know how it's going to work out. You never know what's going to happen. We were coming off a really long drive, unfortunately a lot of plays, so you've got to make sure you've got enough juice to get down the field, and I had enough to do something."
Sherman said a play like that works particularly well when you have a return man in the mix like Lockett, who had a 57-yard punt return for a touchdown in Week 1 against the Rams and later added a franchise-record 105-yard kick return for a score to open the second half of Sunday's game against the Bears.
"He's showing himself to be one of the more elusive and dangerous punt returners and kick returners in this League," Sherman said of Lockett. "And I think he's working himself in position to be the All-Pro, Pro Bowl player, and this is the third week of the season and he had two touchdowns and probably three or four more long runs. So I think he's giving himself the opportunity and giving our team the opportunity to do plays like that."
The last time Lockett ran a kickoff back for a touchdown came in Seattle's preseason opener against the Denver Broncos on a play that saw Pete Carroll celebrate a little too hard. The Seattle head coach collided with the field judge as he tried to run with Lockett toward the end zone. Carroll fell to the turf and ended up missing the last 20 yards of Lockett's scoring play as a result, but he was a bit more fortunate during Lockett's big return against the Bears.
"I thought it was really good because I saw the whole thing," Carroll said with a laugh from his postgame press conference. "You notice I stepped back just at the right time and made sure I was out of the way. It's like when you've been there before you kind of do a little better the next time."
Lockett's 105-yard score topped the Seahawks' previous kick-return record of 101 yards set by Leon Washington in 2010. The play made Lockett the first Seahawks player to have punt and kick returns for touchdowns in the same season since Nate Burleson did it in 2007 and just the second rookie in NFL history (Tony Green, 1978) to have both punt- and kick-return scores in his team's first three games to start a season.
"It was so perfectly blocked, and it was so clean, he came right at our side," Carroll said. "As soon as he gets in one of those chances where he has an opportunity to outrun somebody, you feel like he's going to do it. Again, he certainly did. Just a great boost. Its something, we're counting on him being a factor. I think it's exactly what we had hoped to see, and to see his factor show up so soon is really enormous for us."