When Tate is right, the third-year receiver can be a dazzling playmaker with a flair for the dramatic and a knack for the improbable. A prime example is the controversial “catch” that beat the Packers, or the pivotal reception late against the Cowboys.
But when Tate is wrong, he can be frustratingly inconsistent with critical drops, missed assignments and an air of disinterest. The forgettable game against the 49ers – two bad drops, a big missed block and no catches – still lingers.
Fortunately for the Seahawks on Sunday, Tate was right as Northwest rain.
In perhaps Seattle’s best offensive showing of the season, Tate played a major role, catching four passes including two for touchdowns in the 30-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
“I would love to be that go-to guy,” said Tate, who has 24 catches for 283 yards and a team-high five touchdown catches. “I understand what kind of offense we have and what kind of playmakers we have. All I really try to do is do my job, the best I can. If I can do that, and do it well, my role will increase.”
Tate got the Seahawks their first touchdown of the game, running a drag route across the back of the end zone. Quarterback Russell Wilson showed good patience letting the play develop and then hitting Tate in stride to give the Seahawks a 7-3 lead.
But it was Tate’s second touchdown that will likely be a top highlight on an NFL Sunday filled with them.
On the Vikings’ 11 with the Seahawks trailing 17-14 less than a minute before halftime, Wilson fired a simple screen pass to Tate. It was a fortuitous call as the defender guarding Tate blitzed the quarterback instead.
As he started up the field, Tate got a nice block from Sidney Rice, then sidestepped a tackle from several hard-charging defenders. Two more Vikings were also coming at full speed; Tate made both miss, and they collided with each other.
“For me, I’m a shifty kind of guy,” he said. “I don’t have blazing speed. I just try to read where guys on the field are and the leverage they have on me. Sometimes I can tell when guy is running full speed at me. I feel most times I can make a step and get out of tackles from linebackers and safeties.”
Now just 3 yards from the goal line, Tate saw defensive back Josh Robinson diving for his legs. So he decided to elevate instead of elude.
“For me, it’s just a feeling I get,” he said. “I felt like he was going to go low. Sometimes I’m wrong, sometimes I’m right.”
He was right this time. Tate leapt upward, ball extended. He cleared the diving Robinson, then was creamed by defensive end Everson Griffen. The ball was knocked loose, but the officials ruled that Tate had already crossed the plane of the goal line.
“I put myself out there and tried to cover the ball, but the guy hit me so hard that I kind of lost it,” he said. “I thought I was in, but you know how all that goes.”
Leaping headlong over defenders could be deemed risky – not that Tate had much time to think about it.
“It’s like that,” he said, while snapping his finger. “You don’t have time really to think about it.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll could only grin and shake his head at the play and the decision. His reaction might have been otherwise if the play had gone wrong.
“That was crazy,” Carroll said. “I’ll be all over him, but it was great. He got into the end zone so we’ll take it. But we’ll be talking about that one.”
But fellow receiver Doug Baldwin understood why Tate did what he did. Personal and ball safety be damned when a touchdown is within your reach.
“It’s easy for coaches and people outside to say, ‘Oh, don’t jump and put the ball out there like that,’ ” Baldwin said. “But that man is playing football. He’s doing everything he can to get into the end zone. It was dangerous, but he made it work.”
Right or wrong, Tate came to play on Sunday. And every person affiliated with the team knows the importance of game-winning efforts for future success.
“He played great today,” Carroll said of Tate. “He’s a really tough, competitive kid. I loved the way he’s battling out there.”Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 ryan.divish@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish