When Tate is right, he can be a dazzling playmaker with a flair for the dramatic and a knock for the improbable. Fans need only to point to the controversial "catch" to beat the Packers, or the huge catch late against the Cowboys.
But when Tate is wrong, he can be frustratingly inconsistent with critical drops, hurtful missed assignments and an air of disinterest. The forgettable game against the 49ers -- two drops, a big missed block and no catches -- still lingers in minds.
Fortunately for the Seahawks, on Sunday, Tate was oh so right.
In perhaps Seattle's best offensive showing of the season, Tate played a major role, catching a pair of touchdowns and two other passes in the 30-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
"I would love to be that go-to-guy," said Tate, who has 24 catches for 283 yards and a team-high five touchdown. "I understand what kind of offense we have and what kind of playmakers we have. All I really try to do is do my job, the best I can. If I can do that, and do it well, my role will increase."
Tate got the Seahawks their first touchdown of the game, running a drag route across the back of the end zone. Quarterback Russell Wilson showed good patience letting the play develop and then hitting Wilson in stride to give the Seahawks a 7-3 lead.
But it was Tate's second touchdown that will be one of the top highlights on an NFL Sunday filled with them.
With the Seahawks trailing 17-14 and less than a minute from halftime, Wilson threw a simple screen pass to Tate. The play was a perfect call with the defender head up on Tate blitzing the quarterback instead of covering the receiver.
As Tate started up the field, he got a nice block from wide receiver Sidney Rice in front of him, then sidestepped one tackle from hard charging defenders. Two more Viking defenders were coming at full speed and Tate made both of them miss as they collided with each other.
"For me, I'm a shifty kind of guy," he said. "I don't have blazing speed. I just try to read where guys on the field are and the leverage the have on me. Sometimes I can tell when guy is running full speed at me. I feel most times I can make a step and get out of tackles from linebackers and safeties."
Now just 3 yards from the goal line, Tate saw defensive back Josh Robinson diving for his legs. So he decided to elevate instead of elude.
"For me, it's a just a feeling I get," he said. "I felt like he was going to go low, sometimes I'm wrong, sometimes I'm right."
He was right this time. Tate leaped in the air head first, ball extended. He flew over the diving Robinson and collided with Minnesota defensive end Everson Griffen near the goal line. The ball came loose, but Tate was ruled to have already crossed the plane of the goal line for a touchdown.
"I put myself out there and tried to cover the ball, but the guy hit me so hard that I kind of lost it," he said. "I thought I was in, but you know how all that goes."
It was a tremendous play. But leaping into the air isn't something that's always deemed the best decision -- not that he had much time to think about it.
"It's like that," Tate said, while snapping his finger. "You don't have time really to think about it."
Head coach Pete Carroll could only grin and shake his head at the play and the decision. His reaction might have been otherwise if the play had gone wrong.
"That was crazy," Carroll said. "I'll be all over him, but it was great. He got into the end zone so we'll take it. But we'll be talking about that one."
But fellow receiver Doug Baldwin understood why Tate did what he did. Personal and ball safety be damned when a touchdown is within your reach.
"It's easy for coaches and people outside to say, 'Oh, don't jump and put the ball out there like that," Baldwin said. "But that man is playing football. He's doing everything he can to get into the end zone. It was dangerous, but he made it work."
Right or wrong, Tate came to play on Sunday. And every person affiliated with the team knows the importance of that aspect for future success.
"He played great today," Carroll said. "He's a really tough, competitive kid. I love the way he's battling out there."
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