Doug Baldwin had the biggest day of his career, catching 3 TD passes, and helping the Seattle Seahawks beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 39-30 on Sunday.
Football players dismiss lots of statistics handily.
One that Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin has been carrying around for a long time, though, is that the Seahawks had not won a game since 2011 when the opponent had scored more than 24 points.
“That’s something I paid attention to and our offense has paid attention to — that we need to do better in those situations,’’ Baldwin said. “We didn’t want to just lean on our defense all the time.’’
With one amazing catch and run that capped a day of dizzying plays on each side, Baldwin helped the Seahawks prove they can indeed win a game with their offense, outlasting the Pittsburgh Steelers, 39-30, Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
Baldwin reached low to control a pass from Russell Wilson, who was battling flu-like symptoms throughout the day. Baldwin then broke two tackles and threw a stiff-arm to break free down the sideline, getting a final clinching block from Tyler Lockett on his way to scoring on an 80-yard pass play on third-and-10 with 2:01 left.
The touchdown finally gave Seattle some breathing room on a day when fans were often left simply breathless.
In a game that featured seven lead changes, the Seahawks won for the first time since a 36-25 victory at the New York Giants on Oct. 9, 2011 when the opponent scored 24 or more points. It also was the first time since a 42-30 victory at home against the Giants in 2006 when the Seahawks won a game in which the opponent scored 30 or more points.
“It is kind of an unorthodox way to play and win the football game,’’ said Seattle coach Pete Carroll. “But that’s what we had to do today.’’
One might argue that the bad news is that the Seahawks had to do that to win, with the Legion of Boom again proving vulnerable when going up against one of the best passing offenses in the NFL.
Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger threw for 456 yards, the most ever against the Seahawks, while Markus Wheaton caught nine passes for 201 yards, the second-most ever against the Seahawks and most since Wes Chandler of San Diego had 243 in 1985.
“At times we weren’t clicking,’’ said Seattle safety Earl Thomas. “We had some bonehead plays.’’
But the Seattle defense also came up big at key times, picking off four passes — matching the team’s total for the season coming into the game — and holding the Steelers to field goals on drives of 58, 78 and 71 yards, twice inside the 10.
The deciding stop came with three minutes left when K.J. Wright tackled Roethlisberger on a scramble at the 3, setting up a field goal (and a much-debated decision in Pittsburgh) that made it 32-30.
Baldwin’s catch-and-run on a crossing pattern against man coverage three plays later then sealed the victory.
“Just a crazy catch,’’ Carroll said. “He barely got sight of the ball and somehow held on to it.’’
Baldwin, whose three touchdown receptions were the most for a Seahawk since 1997, said he got his eyes on the pass “as late as I possibly could and still catch it. Fortunately my hands were already low so I didn’t have far to go.’’
And while the Steelers gained 538 yards — the most by a Seattle opponent since the Raiders had 545 in 2010, seven games into Carroll’s career with the Seahawks — Carroll preferred to focus on the defense ultimately holding on.
“To get those yards, they (Steelers) had to put it up and take some chances and our guys came through with the big plays that’s just been missing in our game,’’ Carroll said.
Indeed, they helped the Seahawks wipe away another stat, that of finally holding on to a fourth-quarter lead against a team with a winning record.
The victory improved Seattle’s record to 6-5 and also meant that if the season ended today, the Seahawks would be in the playoffs (by virtue of holding a tiebreaker over Atlanta for better NFC record).
Afterward, there was talk of the Seahawks finding themselves, even if that team now might look a little different.
The Seahawks will be without running back Marshawn Lynch for a few more weeks and Jimmy Graham for the rest of the season after he suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter.
But Wilson — whose five touchdown passes were a career high — Baldwin and an improving offensive line showed that the Seahawks’ offense still has plenty of life.
Afterward, Baldwin recalled a speech he gave to the team before the victory last week over the San Francisco 49ers. Following the disappointing defeat against Arizona, he watched the 2013 NFC title-game victory over the 49ers and decided that the current team “looked very unfamiliar’’ from that squad, despite having much of the same personnel on offense.
His call to the team: “Getting back to Seahawks football and having fun doing it.’’
It might be a different kind of Seahawks football for now. But the fun part Sunday was undeniable.
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