Doug Baldwin tried to relax a little before the game. He took a seat on his couch. He turned on his TV. He flipped the channel to ESPN.
But Doug Baldwin doesn’t relax very well. So instead he got angry. The chip he’s carried on his shoulder all year grew a little bigger. Because here’s what he saw:
“I was able to watch a special on ESPN with Keyshawn Johnson and Cris Carter,” he said after Seattle’s 23-17 win against San Francisco secured a spot in the Super Bowl. “They were talking about the wide receivers for the Seattle Seahawks. They said that we’re not the main entrees. They said that we’re the appetizers. I’ll take that. We’re the appetizers. But we’re one hell of a good appetizer.”
Baldwin responded later in the day with his best game this season. He hauled in a season-high 106 yards on six catches. He returned a kickoff 69 yards that set up a Seattle field goal. He did it despite having to leave the game at one point because of a hip injury that left him feeling less than 100 percent.
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Seattle’s receiving corps has faced criticism all season. Some of it has been justified; the Seahawks have struggled at times to get open when teams have thrown man-to-man coverage against them.
But Baldwin and the rest of Seattle’s receivers took exception to the characterization that they were “average.” That’s the word former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner used to describe them at one point on the NFL Network. USA Today wrote an article earlier this year titled, “Will Seahawks’ question marks at receiver be their downfall?”
Baldwin found the author of the USA Today article in the locker room long after the game had ended. Wearing an NFC Championship hat and grinning, he decided to have a little fun.
“We appreciate you being in the presence of such average and pedestrian receivers,” he said.
Seattle’s receivers made the plays when they really needed to against a very good San Francisco defense. Jermaine Kearse had two catches for 44 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown on fourth-and-seven. Golden Tate added four catches for 31 yards.
But it was Baldwin who most often burned the 49ers with big plays and in big moments. Four of Baldwin’s six catches went for first downs, including two on third down. He also had Seattle’s two most explosive plays — a 51-yard catch in which quarterback Russell Wilson kept the play alive for nine seconds and the 69-yard kickoff return.
Baldwin has had his best season as a pro this year, and he has started to generate attention as one of the league’s top slot receivers. Former NFL running back Marshall Faulk went as far as to call Baldwin “a star waiting to happen” before Sunday’s game.
But Baldwin has long been fueled by the fact that he wasn’t drafted. That edge led to the nickname, Angry Doug Baldwin, because it always seemed like he had something to prove.
The rest of Seattle’s receivers have shared that this year. So much of the talk centered on how much they needed Percy Harvin, how he could be the piece to get them to the Super Bowl.
They didn’t have to hear that talk after Sunday’s game.
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or email@example.com