Doug Baldwin not only set career highs for a single game Saturday with 13 receptions for 171 yards, he also moved easily within sight of the team record for receptions in a season.
Baldwin now has 92, and with three catches Sunday at San Francisco can surpass Bobby Engram, who holds the team record for receptions in a season with 94 in 2007.
The team’s single-season record for receiving yards will be harder to reach – with 1,084, Baldwin is 203 yards behind the 1,287 of Steve Largent in 1985.
Then again, the way Baldwin racked up targets (the 19 passes thrown his way were also eight more than he has ever gotten in a game) receptions and yards in Saturday’s 34-31 loss to the Cardinals, who knows?
Baldwin became even more of a focal point of the offense in the second half after Tyler Lockett was lost for the year with what appeared to be a broken leg.
Baldwin was targeted on 14 of the 32 passes Russell Wilson threw following Lockett’s injury, catching nine for 117 yards and a touchdown.
“He just did everything,’’ said coach Pete Carroll.
Carroll’s hope, of course, is that the running game will be able to do more than it did against the Cardinals and Seattle won’t have to throw it as much as it did against Arizona the rest of the way.
Seattle rushed for just 78 yards on 27 carries against Arizona, a 2.9 yard-per-carry average that marked the second straight week the Seahawks were held under three yards per carry after the team had thought the running game was beginning to turn around. Behind by as much as 13 late, Seattle passed on 18 of its last 25 plays.
Certainly, Seattle should be able to run it Sunday against a 49ers team that is allowing 171.1 rushing yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry, each the most in the NFL.
But it remains unclear if the Seahawks will have Thomas Rawls, who left the Arizona game with a bruised shoulder of undetermined severity. If Rawls is out, then Seattle may have to depend on rookie Alex Collins and recently-signed Terrence Magee at tailback.
Regardless, with Lockett out, the Seahawks will undoubtedly need for Baldwin to continue to come up big for as long as the rest of the season continues.
The game was just the second after the team moved Lockett into a starter’s role opposite Baldwin in two-receiver formations, replacing Jermaine Kearse, who again played mostly in three-receiver sets – Lockett was on the field for 26 of 28 plays before being inured.
Third-year player Paul Richardson took over Lockett’s snaps and had 42 yards on five catches – each his second-most of the season – as well as his first touchdown of the year, playing a season-high 49 snaps.
“We’re going to have to lean on him more now,’’ Baldwin said of Richardson, the team’s first pick in the 2014 draft whose career has been stunted due to injuries. “I know he’s willing and ready.’’
Kearse may also go back to picking up a few more snaps – he had eight targets after Lockett was injured, catching three passes for 27 yards and his first touchdown of the season.
Seattle could also use Tanner McEvoy more, and will also likely look to get another receiver ready to play. Seattle last week claimed rookie J.D. McKissic off waivers and while he was listed as a running back, he played receiver at Arkansas State and with the Falcons (though he has no NFL action).
The Seahawks also have two receivers on the practice squad – former UW standout Kasen Williams, who played in two regular season games and both playoff games last season; and rookie Kenny Lawler, a seventh-round pick in 2016 who has yet to be on the active roster.
The Seahawks might also try to get their tight ends more involved in the passing game – Jimmy Graham has again fallen into something of a quiet period of late with just four catches in the last three games, though one was good for a 37-yard touchdown against the Cardinals, and Luke Willson has just four catches in the last three games.
What Lockett had been adding to the offense in recent weeks, though, won’t be easy to replace, if possible at all.
Having finally recovered from a sprained knee suffered in the second week of the season, Lockett had emerged the last few weeks as the consistent big-play maker that the team envisioned heading into the season – he had nine catches for 168 yards in six quarters after moving into his new role before being hurt against the Cardinals.
But as Saturday showed, Baldwin can pretty much handle whatever weight the team wants to throw on him, having long since proven that he’s worth the four-year, $46 million extension the team signed him to in the summer.
Baldwin’s 13 catches Saturday ranked third in a single game in team history (Largent has the record with 15 against Detroit in 1987) while his yards were the sixth-most in team history and most since Darrell Jackson had 174 in 2002.
Not that any of that mattered to Baldwin after a defeat that meant Seattle no longer has control of its destiny for the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.
“We lost,’’ Baldwin said when asked about his career day. “Win-loss column is all that matters to us.”
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