By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SEATTLE — In the din of laughter, yelling and music permeating throughout the Seattle Seahawks’ locker room, Doug Baldwin seemed pretty subdued.
It seemed odd considering his performance in the Seahawks’ 42-13 whipping of the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night. Baldwin led the Seahawks, catching four passes for 53 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Three of those catches were as good as any that have been made at CenturyLink Field this season.
And he did so with his former college coach at Stanford, Jim Harbaugh, on the opposing sideline.
So did it make it any sweeter having perhaps his best game of the season against Harbaugh, who was celebrating his 49th birthday?
“I’d be lying to you if I said it didn’t,” Baldwin said, his face breaking into a wide grin.
Baldwin’s big night started on the Seahawks’ second possession. With the Seahawks facing second down and 3 from their own 21-yard line, Russell Wilson faked a handoff to Marshawn Lynch and fired a deep pass to Baldwin streaking down the middle of the field with only one defender — Carlos Rogers — on him.
“We knew if we got a particular look, Russell was going to throw it up to me,” Baldwin said. “The safety slid down to cover Golden (Tate) and Russell threw a damn good ball.”
The ball was perfect, but the catch wasn’t. The ball actually went through hands of the leaping Baldwin and bounced off his chest. But as he was falling to the ground Baldwin was able to corral the loose ball into his arms and make the catch.
“I was a little worried,” he said of the bobble “But after you hit the ground, and you know that you caught it, all that worry goes away. I had it the whole way.”
The 43-yard completion helped set up Wilson’s touchdown pass to Marshawn Lynch seven plays later.
But Baldwin wasn’t done making the highlight reel. His third catch of the game might have been more impressive than his first.
On Seattle’s second drive of the third quarter, the Seahawks faced with third and goal from Niners’ 4-yard line. Wilson again saw Rogers lined up in man-to-man coverage on Baldwin, who ran a fade route to the corner.
Wilson’s pass was just out of the reach of Rogers’ outstretched hands and Baldwin made a leaping catch while getting his left foot firmly in bounds and tapping the toe of his right foot in the end zone before falling out of bounds.
“The ball was thrown in a perfect spot,” Baldwin said. “Russell couldn’t have thrown it any better. I just made a play on it.”
Baldwin’s final catch of the night was far from easy. On second down and goal from the 6-yard line, Wilson zipped a pass past San Francisco’s Chris Colliver and Baldwin was able to fight off contact and reach out and grab the laser on his finger tips for another touchdown.
“The guy played a different technique that we hadn’t seen,” Baldwin said. “Somehow, some way I was able get inside of him and make the play.”
Said head coach Pete Carroll: “His two touchdowns were beautiful plays.”
Baldwin was targeted by Wilson on six pass attempts. That’s the most this season.
After catching a team-high 51 passes last season, injuries and the return to health of Sidney Rice, the improved play of Golden Tate and the re-emergence of tight ends as receivers have cut into Baldwin’s numbers.
“It was frustrating at the beginning of the season because you have high expectations for yourself,” Baldwin said. “But you just have to focus on the things you can control. I was able to stay focused.”
Baldwin also knows that they diversity among the receivers makes the offense that much more dangerous.
“That’s the way our offense is built,” Baldwin said. “We keep the defense off balance. They never know who’s going to get the ball, who’s going to go off.”