Doug Baldwin shows he's a beauty even during ugly game
Baldwin made three key special-teams plays, caught a touchdown pass and led the Seahawks in receiving with seven catches for 93 yards.
Seattle Times staff columnist
If you don't wish to waste time confirming what you already knew — that the Seahawks and St. Louis Rams make a nasty "Monday Night Football" cocktail — then perhaps I can interest you in looking inside this forgettable game and highlighting the one player you'll want to remember.
That would be Doug Baldwin, rising above the ugliness once more.
It figures he would show up in a game like this. The nation laughed, but Baldwin played hard anyway. Both teams stammered at times, but Baldwin played hard anyway. And so, before you could convince yourself that this game amounted to a regrettable three-hour experience, Baldwin stood out, yet again, as a source of virtue.
His underdog tale continues to get better. He has evolved from undrafted free agent to rookie surprise to flat-out impact player. It's not a shock when Baldwin does great things anymore. He is, in the absence of Sidney Rice, the Seahawks' best wide receiver. He is, without a doubt, an essential part of the Seahawks' present and future.
In this game, the former Stanford star caught seven passes for 93 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown reception near the end of the third quarter that helped turn a close, defensive, sloppy eyesore into a 30-13 rout.
But Baldwin made an impact long before quarterback Tarvaris Jackson started throwing him the ball. In the game's first five minutes, he influenced the outcome with three stellar special-teams plays that resonated as much as his offensive contributions.
On the opening kickoff, Baldwin took a pitch from returner Leon Washington, and the reverse resulted in a 37-yard return to the Seahawks' 43-yard line. Before the coin toss, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told Baldwin, "It's time."
It's a play the Seahawks had been planning to run for a while. Still, Baldwin was shocked to finally hear the call.
"I was surprised," Baldwin said. "I was happy, but I was surprised. I was really excited and nervous at the same time."
The offense couldn't take advantage of the field position, however, and was forced to punt. As the gunner on special teams, Baldwin downed the ball at the 6-yard line. But his finest play would come after the Seattle defense forced a St. Louis punt.
On fourth-and-six at the St. Louis 37-yard line, Baldwin blocked Donnie Jones' punt. Michael Robinson scooped up the football and ran 17 yards into the end zone to give Seattle a 7-0 lead.
Five minutes, three huge special-teams plays. Baldwin changed the game before his first catch.
"He's a terrific competitor, and we're just thrilled about it," Carroll said. "Great night for the kid. He just continues to answer the call. You give him chances, you give him opportunities, and he just does stuff."
That "stuff" includes leading the Seahawks with 45 receptions and 718 yards this season. Baldwin is no longer an undrafted kid fortunate to receive an opportunity in Seattle. No, the Seahawks are actually the lucky ones.
Where would the Seahawks be without Baldwin? It's a scary thought.
When asked about Baldwin's great game, Jackson gave him the appropriate compliment: He's not surprised.
"We expect that out of him now," said Jackson, who was 21 of 32 for 224 yards. "He's a dependable guy."
Baldwin can ignore the chip on his shoulder now and admit that, though he expects a lot out of himself, this rookie season has exceeded his dreams. He knew he was good enough to play in the NFL, and when he signed with the Seahawks he knew he would make the team.
But leading the team in receptions? Special-teams ace? No, he doesn't dream that well.
"Realistically, yes," Baldwin said when asked about surprising himself this season. "But as far as my expectations, I expected to be successful. If you don't have that confidence in yourself, you're not going to win a job."
Baldwin hasn't just won a job. He has earned adoration. And he has earned the right to be teased by teammates.
Ask him which play he'll remember the most from this game, and Baldwin doesn't offer one. But he reveals that his "trash-talking teammates" are about to have fun joking about his reverse.
"They're already saying I should've scored a touchdown on that one," Baldwin said, smiling. "Marshawn Lynch is already calling me slow. We'll see. I'll have to watch the film and see if I should've scored on that one." Tough locker room.
Yep, Doug Baldwin has arrived as a player worthy of high expectations.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer
About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
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