ATLANTA — Doug Baldwin and the rest of Seattle’s receivers were well aware of the perception of them in some corners of the media.

“They said we were average,” Baldwin said.

And that was before the Seahawks lost Sidney Rice for the season two weeks ago with a torn ACL.

But Sunday’s 33-10 win against slumping Atlanta further proved that Seattle’s receiving corps, even without Rice and Percy Harvin, is still capable. Baldwin hauled in five catches for 76 yards, Golden Tate added a season-high 106 yards and Jermaine Kearse finished with a season-high 75 yards.

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“I know I took offense to them saying we were average — at best,” Tate said. “We took it to heart to continue to play within the game plan but to show up big and make plays.”

Tate turned a quick pass in the flat into an electric 46-yard gain in the first quarter and also caught a one-handed touchdown in the corner of the end zone. That grab, which Russell Wilson called a “top-three play,” gave the Seahawks a commanding 23-3 halftime lead.

The loss of Rice hurt because he was Seattle’s tallest and most experienced receiver, as well as the group’s leader. But he had struggled for most of the year, and when he went down, Tate understood the ripple effect.

“The way I practiced didn’t change; the way I compete didn’t change,” Tate said. “But mentally, I kind of took it personal. Now we needed a guy to step up and make more plays.”

Rice’s injury, however, did cause Baldwin to change the way he practiced. Baldwin has been a reliable option in the slot — meaning he lines up inside — on third down all season.

Without Rice, though, he had to slide outside and play on first and second downs — an increase in workload that exhausted him against Atlanta. In his last two games, he has been targeted 18 times; he was targeted just six times in his previous three games.

And Kearse, a guy used almost exclusively on special teams a year ago, is tied for the team lead with three touchdown catches. He hauled in a 43-yard jump ball for a touchdown against Atlanta and has shown that, at 6 feet 1, he is a threat to make tough catches in the air.

“There was no doubt in our minds,” Baldwin said. “We didn’t expect any drop-off at all.”

Improved reception
With Sidney Rice tearing an ACL against St. Louis, the concern was how the Seahawks were going to fill the void, especially with Percy Harvin’s status uncertain. The receivers, however, have stepped up the last two games.
Player Vs. Tampa Bay Vs. Atlanta
Golden Tate 3 catches, 29 yards 6 catches, 106 yards, 1 TD
Jermaine Kearse 2 catches, 43 yards, 1 TD 3 catches, 75 yards, 1 TD
Doug Baldwin 6 catches, 75 yards, 1 TD 5 catches, 76 yards

Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or jjenks@seattletimes.com