RENTON — You aren’t the only one wondering how Tyler Lockett continues to defy the odds — and perhaps the laws of gravity — with some of his improbable catches.
“Sometimes I even question how I come down with them,” the Seahawks receiver said. “It’s not just everybody else trying to figure out how.”
And if you’re wondering how the Seahawks offense might fare without veteran receiver Josh Gordon — suspended Monday for the eighth time in his NFL career — Lockett, no doubt, is the best place to start.
And fortunately for quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, Lockett says he’s just about back to full strength. Last month, Lockett was slowed by a shin contusion suffered in the overtime victory in San Francisco. Earlier this month, he caught the flu outbreak that hit the Seahawks’ locker room.
“It’s been a hard span for him,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
Lockett’s production dwindled — he had just five catches over a three-game stretch, including his first zero-catch game in more than two years — and the Seahawks’ offense suffered. Wilson had three of his least efficient games during that stretch against the Eagles, Vikings and the Rams, combining for three touchdown passes, three interceptions and a passer rating of 81.1.
Not surprisingly, Wilson’s return to form during last weekend’s victory at Carolina coincided with a big game from Lockett. That included one of those how-the-heck-did-he-do-that catches in the first quarter, in which Wilson lofted a pass downfield that Carolina’s Donte Jackson appeared to have locked on. Instead, Lockett hauled it in for a 44-yard reception, then sprang to his feet to give an emphatic first-down signal.
“Unbelievable catch,” Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “I still don’t know how he finishes some of those plays.”
Lockett said he wasn’t sure that particular pass play would get called because he had dropped the ball when they ran it in practice last week.
“I don’t think we ran it again full-go until that game,” he said.
Lockett finished with eight receptions (on nine targets) for 120 yards, including a 19-yard TD pass from Wilson, who had his most efficient game in more than two months.
“Look at Russ’ efficiency numbers when he’s got Tyler on the field,” Carroll said. “That’s no accident.”
In other words, the Seahawks (11-3) almost certainly need their best receiver at his best in the final two regular-season games — starting Sunday at home against Arizona — if they’re going to hold on to the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.
Wilson had a perfect passer rating (158.3) when targeting Lockett in 2018, and they again lead the NFL in that statistic this year, at 131.3, according to Pro Football Focus.
“Those guys have something pretty special,” Schottenheimer said recently.
With 75 catches for 994 yards and seven touchdowns, Lockett needs just six more yards to top 1,000 yards receiving for the first time. He also would be the Seahawks’ first 1,000-yard receiver since Doug Baldwin in 2016.
“People say the average (NFL career) is three and a half years, so just to be able to beat the average, to have a role that they’ve given me in this offense, not too many people have been able to say they’ve been in the league this long and had a chance to eclipse a thousand yards,” said Lockett, in his fifth NFL season. “If I ended up passing it, it’d be a huge blessing.”
The Seahawks entered the season with one of the youngest rosters in the NFL, and that’s especially true at wide receiver. Gordon’s suspension means they’ll likely ask even more of rookie DK Metcalf (52 catches, 819 yards, 6 TDs), with David Moore (14-250-2) sliding back into the No. 3 receiver role.
Veteran Jaron Brown, second-year pro Malik Turner and rookie John Ursua will be in the mix, too.
Metcalf said he was pleasantly surprised at how welcoming Lockett was when Metcalf arrived in Seattle this summer.
“He’s shown us the way and set an example for how a leader should be,” Metcalf said. “He’s been a big brother to me. Whenever I have problems, or if he sees something I need to work on, he takes the initiative.”
Now it’s on Lockett to continue to take charge on Sundays.
“I don’t think this really is going to affect us in a tremendous way,” Carroll said of Gordon’s suspension. “I think our guys can play. All of our guys can play. … We’re in good shape right now at the position. I love the position group.”