Seahawks’ passing game continues to improve

SEATTLE — Golden Tate said he was going for style points.

It ended up being more of an exclamation point on an impressive performance by a Seahawks passing game that was a glaring weakness early in the season.

Facing second-and-one from the 11-yard line, Russell Wilson hit Tate with a short pass, and after making three defenders miss, Tate launched himself into the air near the goal line, clearing cornerback Josh Robinson, but taking a jarring blow from defensive end Everson Griffen.

Fortunately for Tate, the ball was in the end zone before Griffen knocked it loose, so the result was a touchdown that gave Seattle the lead for good in an eventual 30-20 victory.

“That was crazy, and I’ll be all over him,” Carroll said of Tate’s leap. “He played great today. He really played great. … He’s a really tough, competitive kid and I love the way he’s battling out there. That was a little crazy, yeah, but he got in the end zone so we’ll take it. But we’ll be talking about that one.”

The touchdown was the second of the game for Tate, and the third touchdown pass in the first half for Wilson, who continued his upward trend of the past few games. With the defense struggling to stop Adrian Peterson, the Seahawks were able to count on their passing game to give them a first-half lead, which is precisely the formula the Seahawks have used all season. … No, wait, that’s not at all how they’ve done things this season.

But while the Seahawks aren’t suddenly going to start being confused with the NFL’s top passing attacks, their passing offense is slowly showing it can be an asset, not a liability, and that was on display Sunday more than ever.

Wilson finished the game with only 173 passing yards, but that was more a function of the score of the game and not indicative of his overall performance. He completed 16-of-24 passes, didn’t turn the ball over and finished with a passer rating of 127.3. In the first half, he was 10-for-14 for 106 yards and all three touchdowns. The Seahawks leaned on their run game to milk the clock in the second half.

“Guys are stepping up, and as our quarterback gets better, we get better, and you can see him getting better every week,” said fullback Michael Robinson. “The great thing about it is, he has the demeanor to be great. He’s never too down, he’s never too high. Right now, you wouldn’t be able to tell if we won or lost by the way he talks. It’s good to have a guy like that leading us.”

Added wide receiver Sidney Rice, who had 54 yards and a touchdown on four catches, “He (Wilson) handled himself really well. He was hitting open passes, scrambling, getting big first downs, a couple of quarterback sneaks. There’s no looking back for him.”

Wilson’s improvement over the past five games has been the easiest to quantify, but the improvements in the passing game have come for a variety of reasons. The pass protection has been better of late, with Wilson only taking one sack in the last two games, and receivers, especially Tate and Rice, seem to be improving as they become more comfortable with Wilson.

“I see continuous growing with the whole offense,” said Tate. “Our running game has always been really good. The receivers and quarterback, our timing is getting better, we’re understanding the offense even more and we’re just continuing to grow.”

With a more competent passing attack, the Seahawks have become a better team on third down, and even more importantly, a more potent offense in the red zone. Earlier this season, the Seahawks were scoring touchdowns in the red zone at the lowest rate in the NFL. On Sunday, their first four trips to the red zone all ended with touchdowns, and Seattle also converted on its final two red zone possessions last week in Detroit.

“The past few weeks, we’ve been getting better in the red zone,” Wilson said. “… Guys made plays. The offensive line did a great job of protecting, giving me enough time to make some decisions. Golden Tate making those plays and also Sidney Rice, it’s pretty awesome to see.”

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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