With other receivers out with injuries, the Seahawks need Golden Tate to realize his potential.
Working from the left slot, Golden Tate ran up the middle of the field and cut left toward the corner of the end zone and waited as Tarvaris Jackson’s pass hung in the air for what seemed like a tick too long.
This was a catch a playmaker had to make. This is a play Tate is supposed to make. A jump ball play.
And this time Tate made it.
He out-jumped Philadelphia’s Joselio Hanson just inside the end zone’s back line and made a textbook, two-handed catch for an 11-yard touchdown that put the Seahawks ahead 24-7 midway through the third quarter Thursday night.
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These are the plays Tate can make. This is why the Seahawks spent a second-round pick on him in 2010. This is what is expected of him.
And now, 28 games into his sputtering NFL career, Tate is getting the best opportunity of his life.
This month coach Pete Carroll has no choice. He has to play Tate. Sidney Rice is on injured reserve. And Mike Williams is nursing a bum shoulder.
In this final, full month of the season, Tate is the Seahawks’ speed. He is the one remaining receiver who can stretch the field.
This is the month Golden Tate has to grow up. This is when he has to mature into his talent. He has to show Carroll, the staff and his teammates how much he wants to play in the NFL. Tate has to show he’s serious.
“I definitely have to say that in college (Notre Dame) I felt like I didn’t have to do any studying,” Tate said after the Hawks’ 31-14 win over the team that used to be the Philadelphia Eagles. “I didn’t have to watch any film. I just had to show up and me being a competitor that alone would give me a chance. But here, in the league, you got guys who have the knowledge and are athletic just like me.
“So what separates the good player from the great player are the little things, executing the things that your coaches tell you, using your fundamentals and your athleticism at the same time.”
Thursday’s game, where he caught all four passes targeted to him for 47 yards and a touchdown, was a beginning. It was his best game as a Seahawk.
“I sure hope this is a start,” Tate said. “It was kind of a confidence builder. I went up against Nnamdi (Asomugha) and (Asante) Samuel. Those are great cornerbacks and I competed and made some plays. If I keep this same attitude of working hard and getting better every day, always being driven, I think I can do something special.”
After Sunday’s loss to Washington, after Tate’s fourth-quarter end-zone swoon that cost the Hawks a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty that was the beginning of the end for Seattle, Carroll, who rarely criticizes his players, publicly challenged Tate.
“That’s not who I am,” Tate said.
This month will be Tate’s best chance to kick-start his career and prove how much he wants to be part of a team that desperately needs him. No more swoons. No more knuckleheaded penalties.
“This was an opportunity for me to show up,” he said. “Show the organization, the coaches, the other players on the team and the world that I can play this game. I think this was a good start. But there are still things I can do better.”
Things like the first play of the game, when Tate was watching Bill Russell raise the 12th Man flag and was tardy getting on the field. The Hawks were penalized before the first snap for having two men in motion.
It was a brief here-we-go-again moment.
This has been Tate’s problem. Too often he acts like he doesn’t understand the work involved in his profession, as if he believes his talent is enough.
“What I learned between last year and this year is to prepare every single week like you’re going to be the guy,” he said. “Last year I found myself thinking, ‘Well I’m not starting. I’m not going to get in many plays, so I’m just kind of going to go through the motions.’
“This year, I’ve been studying film, watching Sidney, watching Mike, watching Doug (Baldwin) trying to learn everything I can. I’ve been practicing hard, trying to prove that, ‘Coach I deserve to be on the field.’ “
Against the beleaguered Eagles, Tate played smarter and under control and gave us another glimpse of his rich potential.
“He’s really special,” Carroll said. “He makes special plays and we have to keep giving it to him.”
This game earned Tate another chance. But he has to come back a week from Monday against St. Louis and do it again and again and again.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org