Renton – About midseason, a prevalent discussion among fans was whether the Seahawks should go out and try to trade for a wide receiver, a reliable No. 1, a big-play guy who demanded respect – if not out-right fear – from opposing secondaries.
A month later, the Seahawks have two of them. And they were here all along.
After having combined for a modest six touchdown catches in the first half of the season, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate have pulled in eight in the past four games, a pace that could make them one of the most productive receiver tandems in franchise history.
With four games to go, Rice and Tate have seven touchdown catches each, which puts them on pace for 19 this season and a tie for second-most in team history. That’s short only of the 1984 combo of Steve Largent (12 TDs) and Daryl Turner (10).
The targeting and scheming of the offense toward Rice and Tate was by design when coach Pete Carroll and his staff sought to enhance offensive production in the second half of the season.
“We really focused in on those two guys,” Carroll said Monday. “We decided to push those guys to the front and see if we couldn’t accelerate the process of the chemistry.”
The two have such different traits, Carroll said of the 6-4 Rice and the 5-10 Tate. But both are threats to score from any distance, particularly as they build rapport and timing with rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.
“Focusing on those two guys … kind of lasers us in on the chemistry part of it,” Carroll said. “And Russell has really taken off with that.”
As defenses are forced to pay attention to Rice and Tate, opportunities for tight end Zach Miller and inside receiver Doug Baldwin tend to open up, Carroll said.
Rice’s first season in Seattle last year was shortened by concussions and shoulder injuries. Tate’s ruookie season in 2010, meanwhile, was an obvious learning experience with his involvement somewhat limited by the coaches’ trust in him. His athleticism was on display almost every day in practice, but so was his inattention to detail and professional preparation.
Rice leads the team this season with 43 catches, which makes it unlikely he’ll reach his career high of 83 during his Pro Bowl season of 2009 with Minnesota, but he’s only one shy of the eight touchdown catches he had that season.
He’s pulled in five touchdowns in the past five games, and his plays have not been short on drama, including his 46-yarder with 1:18 remaining against New England to win the game.
Tate has 35 catches, which matches his total from his sophomore season last year. He, too, has a flair for the dramatic. His controversial winner against Green Bay may be the most-viewed replay of the season. He added a 51-yarder against New England, and threw a TD pass to Rice in a win over the Jets.
In the overtime upset of Chicago on Sunday, Rice and Tate were at their most dramatic and productive. Rice had 99 yards and Tate 96 — with Tate pulling in the 14-yard go-ahead TD with 24 seconds to go in regulation, and Rice topped that with the 13-yard winner in overtime.
On that play, Rice took a wicked shot to the head for his effort. While the Seahawks celebrated, Rice was flattened in the end zone.
After the game, Rice said he was fine, but Carroll said Monday afternoon that he would go through the concussion-testing protocol and be evaluated through the week.
“(It) was probably one of the best decisions we’ve made,” Carroll said of finding more effective ways to tap into the talents of Rice and Tate. “I think things have really turned up since then. They’ve done a tremendous job. Made great plays, big plays.
“I think it was just (a matter of ) the commitment,” he said. “Those guys were there for it … they were ready for it and they’ve come through in a big way.”