By Brady Henderson
For a moment, Golden Tate showed the lack of focus that has dogged him for much of his young NFL career.
It was the first play of his first career start, and he was late to the huddle.
“At the beginning of the game, I know I’m supposed to be in the game,” he said, lamenting the latest mental mistake in a career that has had a few. “I’m just over there thinking about whatever. We’re trying to run a play and I’m not even on the field.”
Consider it a rough start to an otherwise stellar game, Tate’s finest as a pro.
After his early hiccup, Tate caught four passes for 47 yards and a touchdown in the Seahawks’ 31-14 win over the Eagles Thursday night. He gained eight yards on a bubble screen that will go down as a run, otherwise giving him a career-high in receiving yards.
“It was an opportunity for me to show up, show the organization, the coaches, the other players on the team and the world that I can play this game. I think this was a good start,” he said. “By no means was it a perfect game. There’s a lot of things that [come to mind] that I need to work on and get better at, but just a blessing that I got the opportunity.”
Tate started the game in place of Sidney Rice, whose season ended this week with another concussion. In the second quarter, Tate turned a short out-route into a 25-yard gain, spinning twice to break three tackles.
In the third quarter, Tarvaris Jackson found him in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown. Jackson lobbed the ball over two Eagles defenders, and Tate out-jumped one with his arms outstretched before deftly coming down with both feet in bounds.
“Like I said last week when I scored, I did the easy part,” Tate said.
His quarterback saw it differently.
“Him going up and getting it — that was Golden,” Jackson said. “That’s what he’s good at — going up and getting the football. What was so good about that catch was him getting his toes down and he did a great job of concentrating, making the catch, first of all, and then getting his feet down in the back of the end zone. I appreciate that, so I take my hat off to him.”
The athleticism Tate showed on that play is what made him the nation’s best receiver during his final season an Notre Dame. It made him a second-round pick in the 2010 draft, one that some teams thought was talented enough to go in the first.
It also made him complacent.
“They [Seahawks coaches and teammates] didn’t know which Golden they were going to get,” he said. “Am I going to get the Golden who’s going to play hard, who’s going to execute what I coach him? Or am I going to get the Golden who’s caught up in college, just out there out-athleting people?
“So I’ve been trying very, very hard just to prove to the coaches, the organization and T-Jack that I’m going to do this the way you want me to do it, and it’s worked out.”
The 20 catches Tate has made so far this season suggests marginal improvement from the 21 he caught as a rookie. But his progression has been greater than those totals would indicate.
His role has been reduced by the addition of Rice and the emergence of Doug Baldwin, but Tate has made plays when he’s been called upon. Two of his three touchdowns this season have come in the last two weeks while playing in place of Rice. He caught two critical passes on the final drive of a Week 10 win over the Ravens.
“He’ll do whatever we give him chances to do,” coach Pete Carroll said. “This is what we see in practice all the time, we just haven’t got him in there as much to give him the focal point opportunities. … It’s great to see Golden; we’re just going to keep doing it.
“He’s really special. He makes plays, so we have to keep giving it to him.”