The play that turned the Seahawks-Jets game Sunday from consternation to elation was practiced carefully — though inelegantly — Saturday during the offense's walk-through drills. Wide receiver Golden Tate would take a pitchout from quarterback Russell Wilson and pretend the play was an end-around until he paused to throw, presumably catching the defense unprepared.
"I threw," Tate said of his practice chuck, "a duck."
That's a fancy football term for a pass most fowl, one that assures it is unlikely to be used in the game. But the Seahawks called it anyway, in the rain, in the fourth quarter, from the Jets 23-yard line, and it so surprised the Jets defense that the pass could have been an ostrich and still worked. Receiver Sidney Rice ran down the sidelines to the end zone so alone the Seahawks could have been brought up on abandonment charges.
"It took Golden about 35 seconds to throw it," said Rice, grinning.
"It was like forever before he released the ball," said coach Pete Carroll.
"So awkward," said Wilson, laughing.
"I am after," said Tate, mock-defiantly, "Russell Wilson's job."
Rice floated into place, waiting as day turned to twilight, while Tate gripped and re-gripped the damp ball — "I didn't have my rain gloves," he said — and finally was at a near-standstill in the empty end zone as the duck came to nest in his hands.
"After it left his hands," said Rice, "it was beautiful."
For sure, it was amusing in Seattle. For sure, it was devastating to the Jets, because it added humiliation to a 28-7 defeat that really wasn't that dominant. And most important, it settled the question of which team had the better backup quarterback.
If you haven't already, Tim Tebow, take a knee. It's over.
Tate was a 1-for-1 for one with a 23-yard touchdown pass, which in the arcane world of NFL quarterback rating systems makes for a perfect score of 158.3. Tebow, meanwhile — the most heralded backup QB in NFL history — completed all three of his little-boy passes for eight yards, and rushed four times for 14 yards in a display so inconsequential that it stretches credulity to imagine anyone thinking Tebow in this role was a good idea.
Getting Tate the ball, however, seems to be an increasingly commendable idea. In the first quarter, Tate was on the conventional end of a touchdown pass, out-leaping Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson at the 4-yard line to complete a 37-yard play from Wilson that gave the Seahawks a 7-0 lead.
In the fourth-quarter drive to the final score, Tate caught a short bubble screen, leaped one tackler, shed another and turned a nothing play into a 13-yard first down pass that that set up the TD four plays later.
"Play of the night," said Wilson. "He jumped up into the air, and I thought, 'Uh-oh, this is going to be bad,' and he just bounced off of it. He has those cat-like reflexes." Added Carroll: "That was maybe the best playwe've had this year."
The development of Tate as a playmaker has been a long-awaited outcome for the Seahawks, whose thinnest position has been wide receiver.
"My mindset is anytime I get the ball, I can make something special happen," he said. "That's how I approach every single ball, because I don't know how many I'm going to get."
Tate's growth helps Wilson get better too. He completely outplayed his Jets counterpart, Mark Sanchez, who was 9 of 23 for 124 yards and threw one interception. But a big part of Sanchez's face plant was having to face the Seahawks defense.
Aside from a spectacular run last week by Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, the Seahawks the last two games have returned to early season form. The Jets had 185 yards total offense and went scoreless; the only New York points coming on a first-quarter strip sack of Wilson that 315-pound defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson turned into a 21-yard fumble return TD.
The Jets defense surprised the Seahawks in the first half with a variety of looks, stunts and blitzes that they cooked up in the bye week that helped confuse Wilson.
"They disguised things pretty well," Wilson said, "with some things we hadn't seen."
Led by cornerback Richard Sherman, who had a second-quarter interception and a fourth quarter strip sack — a career first — of Sanchez, the second-half defense smothered the Jets and allowed the offense to get in gear behind Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. Lynch had 127 yards in 24 carries and surpassed 1,000 yards for the second year in a row.
"They give you a lot of stuff," Carroll said of the Jets offense. "They tried it, they went for it, and it was not an issue today at all. It comes down to third-down numbers (the Jets converted 2-of-11), which were really cool today."
The outcome was as good as the Seahawks could have wanted: two wins to get to 6-4 entering a bye week and the chance to heal. Throw in the chuckle of a trick play that worked, and the Seahawks walked out of the Clink Sunday night with a well-earned smirk.