The Seattle Seahawks’ wideouts work in the background. They line up against press coverage and slip underneath it.
But that’s just during the week. The often unsaid and unread names of the Seahawks make themselves known on Sundays.
Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin – despite ranking 85th and 42nd in NFL receiving yards during the regular season, respectively – headline them. And while they are seldom headliners on a team revered for its powerful running game and ‘Legion of Boom,’ they are underlying reasons why Seattle’s set to play in February for the second year in a row.
Kearse, a 2012 undrafted free agent by way of Washington, caught the 35-yard game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game. And Baldwin, a 2011 undrafted free agent by way of Stanford, had six catches for 106 yards in that game, including the 35-yard strike that preceded Kearse’s in overtime.
And with that, Green Bay headed home and Seattle headed on, despite a four-interception performance by star quarterback Russell Wilson.
Kearse and Baldwin were reasons why on that final drive two Sundays ago, and they’ll have to be reasons again on whatever final drive this Sunday brings. But it will be then, in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium, that they’ll have to battle a cornerback tandem far more conspicuous than themselves.
Going against former teammate Brandon Browner and former AFC Defensive Player of the Year Darrelle Revis is a task they’re lining up for.
“I’m excited about it,” Baldwin told NFL Network’s Michael Irvin during media day at US Airways Center. “Anytime you get to go up against guys that have done well in this league, who have dominated in this league, you have got to rise to the challenge.”
Baldwin led Seattle’s wide receivers with 66 receptions for 825 yards and three touchdowns over the course of the 16-game season, while Kearse turned in 38 receptions for 537 yards and one touchdown.
Both are steady more than they are spectacular. But both have risen to the occasion during the Seahawks’ postseason run, leading an underestimated collection that also features former practice-squad player Ricardo Lockette, former Winnipeg Blue Bomber Chris Matthews, as well as former Alabama fourth-rounder Kevin Norwood.
It is the 5-foot-10, 189-pound Baldwin and the 6-foot-1, 209-pound Kearse who have stood atop the list, however. The two currently find themselves standing in the top-six in playoff receiving production. And they currently find themselves standing just days away from a bout with two corners built to cut that production.
Sparring with Revis and Browner – and the seven Pro Bowls between them – is not something the quick and candid Baldwin is looking away from.
“You’d expect nothing less from our receiving corps, our group. We’re excited about that opportunity,” Baldwin said. “Browner being one of the most physical cornerbacks, Revis being one of the most cerebral cornerbacks – I’m excited about the opportunity we have presented to us.”
Baldwin should see his share of snaps against the 6-foot-3, 221-pound Browner on Sunday, whom he saw his share of practice reps against over his first three seasons in the league. As did Kearse last season.
But Seattle’s top target will also see his share of snaps against the 5-foot-11, 198-pound Revis, whom he hasn’t met since Week 9 of the 2013 campaign.
Revis held him to one catch for six yards in that contest, according to Pro Football Focus. Yet No. 24 was playing zone in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ secondary then, and No. 89 was second on the depth chart behind current Detroit Lion Golden Tate.
Only it won’t be about history or pedigree this Sunday.
“I tell you what – I’m going to bring my sunblock, my shades, and a hat and I’m going to go to Revis Island and see what I can do. And I’ll let you know after the game,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin and Kearse; Revis and Browner – one side’s names stand more prominently than the other’s. Even so, it would be remiss to think Seattle’s wideouts have gotten this far without one.