Receiver touches the ball just three times, and each time makes it memorable
Golden Tate can’t do anything in an unmemorable manner. He pooh-poohs ho-hum. He doesn’t even make a doughnut run without incident.
You will notice him. Always. When he blocks a defender, he hits the guy so hard he gets fined for no real reason other than it looked too punishing. When he makes a game-winning catch to beat Green Bay on “Monday Night Football,” it comes via a shove and controversial faux reception that leaves the nation screaming and ends the NFL’s referee lockout. When he plays poorly, he looks so bad that you wonder if he’ll be benched.
Tate touched the football just three times in the Seahawks’ 28-7 victory over the New York Jets. And he put his signature on every scant opportunity. And he celebrated like he was playing the game for the first time after every Golden moment.
He makes you giggle, cringe and pray for the mundane, often in the same game. But when he’s at his electric best, it doesn’t take much for him to galvanize the limelight. Sunday, before a CenturyLink Field crowd of 67,841, Tate was unforgettable once again, energizing the Seahawks during a game that was much more laborious than the final score showed.
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On the Seahawks’ first possession, Tate jumped higher than Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson to catch a 38-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson. He reacted with a shrug before going into a wild dance that he said was a nod to Cuba Gooding Jr.’s Rod Tidwell character in “Jerry Maguire.”
Tate didn’t re-emerge until the fourth quarter. He caught a bubble screen, hurdled a defender and rumbled 13 yards for a first down before pretending to cover his mouth in amazement. Three plays later, Tate threw a 23-yard touchdown pass — awkward, long lefty windup and all — to Sidney Rice for the Seahawks’ final score of a close game that turned lighthearted in the fourth quarter. Tate simply bowed after that pass, a fitting way to conclude his three random bursts of spectacular.
“His throwing motion was the worst,” said Rice, who mocked Tate for several minutes after the play. “I thought we traded for Tebow for a second.”
The Jets and their overexposed backup quarterback, Tim Tebow, had no retort for Seattle as the game progressed. By the end, the Seahawks looked as dominant as they have all season. For a game that was 14-7 entering the fourth quarter, the Seahawks wound up controlling every facet of this competition.
The Seahawks (6-4) nearly doubled up the Jets in yards gained (363-185). The Seattle defense allowed just 73 yards in the second half. The offense produced 122 of its 174 rushing yards after halftime. Marshawn Lynch ran for 124 yards and a touchdown, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark with six games remaining.
Though they still don’t stray too far from average, the Seahawks are progressing, turning into a more complete team and putting themselves in position to make a late-season playoff run. And Tate, their third-year receiver, is in the middle of all the commotion, as usual.
Overall, Tate has had a, well, memorable season. He’s tied for 10th in the NFL in touchdown catches with six despite having only 26 receptions this season. It would be a stretch to say he’s established himself as a go-to receiver or even made eye-opening strides toward fulfilling the expectations of a 2010 second-round draft choice. But he is much improved. And he has been productive, especially when you remember the Seahawks are averaging a mere 25.5 pass attempts per game. And he still enthralls you with his potential.
Now, there’s substance behind it. Tate is no longer the brash receiver who couldn’t run the right routes and fell out of favor with offensive coaches in the past. He isn’t the immature kid who once got in trouble for smuggling Top Pot maple bars after hours. He is a well-intentioned, hard-nosed competitor who adds a vital spark to an offense that is rapidly improving.
“The kid’s finally growing up,” fullback Michael Robinson said of Tate. “He’s coming into his own. I tell him before every game, ‘Show the world what you can do, man. Show ’em who Golden Tate is.’ I see it in practice all the time.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who has taken special interest in Tate this season, called Tate’s hurdling first down “maybe the best play we’ve had this year.” Even if you think Tate is too much of a showman, there’s no denying that he’ll sacrifice himself to make a play. He avoided disaster on a crazy flip into the end zone last week against Minnesota. He went airborne again Sunday. He’s nuts, but at least he’s channeling it properly.
“I’m going to put my body on the line,” Tate said. “I want to win that bad.”
There was once a time when you couldn’t get Tate out of your mind for the wrong reasons. Not anymore. He’s on the right side of unforgettable now.
If he keeps creating these kinds of memories, he can pooh-pooh ho-hum all he wants.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.