RENTON, Wash. – It might be time to add to the list of touchdown connections you’ve come to know. There’s Manning-to-Beckham, Roethlisberger-to-Brown, Brady-to-Gronk.
Now how about Wilson-to-Baldwin?
Yes, as in the Seattle Seahawks quarterback and wide receiver.
Over the past three weeks there has not been a more productive and efficient duo in the NFL than Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin. They’ve connected for touchdowns at a pace not seen since Steve Young was throwing TD passes to Jerry Rice more than 20 years ago and they’ve brought a new dimension to Seattle’s offense.
“For those two guys in particular, they’re really on it. The plays we’re calling are not that much different than we’ve ever called them, but they’re seeing it well, they’re taking advantage of all the little nuances that need to be done to take advantage of what’s happening on defense,” coach Pete Carroll said. “Just a natural growth has happened there.”
Wilson is on a run that statistically stands up among the best four-game stretches in NFL history. According to STATS, Wilson is the first quarterback going back to 1960 to have four straight games with a passer rating of 138.5 or higher. He’s thrown for 1,171 yards, completed 75.4 percent of his passes and thrown 16 touchdown passes with no interceptions as the Seahawks have won their past four games.
For the last three games, Baldwin has been the favored target. Baldwin has 17 catches for 321 yards and eight touchdowns, becoming the first wide receiver since Rice in 1993 with eight TDs in three games.
For the season, Baldwin is on pace to be the first Seattle wide receiver with 1,000 yards since Bobby Engram in 2007. He has 11 touchdowns and 61 receptions already and done it in just 80 targets. Baldwin is one of five wide receivers in the NFL with double-digit touchdowns, but the only one that has fewer than 128 targets.
“If you look at it, this year again we’re the most efficient receiving corps. Really, nothing has changed,” Baldwin said. “We just get more opportunities. Obviously, if you get more opportunities you have more opportunities to do something with those chances. For us, we’re getting more targets.”
Seattle has looked for other primary receivers, whether it was the failed experiment with Percy Harvin or the addition of tight end Jimmy Graham this season. But whether consciously or not, Wilson seems to always come back to Baldwin. Since Wilson’s first start in September 2012 at Arizona, the duo have connected 206 times in the regular season.
That connection has been better than ever of late.
“I look at the tape and Russell’s doing everything right,” Baldwin said. “It’s fun to watch, it’s like a video game.”
Baldwin will never be regarded as the fastest straight ahead wide receiver and that’s not his strength. But Baldwin often has been described as quick by teammates and opponents. Quick in and out of his cut, quick in reading the defense and finding where he needs to go and quick in learning tendencies.
“You might not necessarily be as concerned about the fast receivers as you are the quicker ones,” Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said. “Because the quicker ones can get off of the press, and if the ball’s delivered on time there’s some separation there.”
Quick is how Baldwin would describe what he adds to Seattle’s offense. When the Seahawks changed some of their passing philosophy at the bye week, the long drop backs by Wilson we’re mostly taken out and replaced by shorter routes and combinations where decisions needed to be made, well, quickly.
“That’s my forte. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing,” Baldwin said. “That’s part of my job, being quick.”
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.