SEATTLE – Appetizers. Pedestrians. Undrafted.
It’s hard to know if Seattle wide receivers Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin remember every unkind thing that is said about them in the media, but it’s clear that they hear enough to flame their competitive fires.
“The receiving corps is appetizers,” Baldwin said, quoting – and mocking – a national television commentator. “I’ll take that.
“I’ll be an appetizer, but that’s a good-ass appetizer if you ask me,” he said.
Baldwin led Seattle with six receptions and Kearse had two, including a 35-yard touchdown catch that put Seattle ahead to stay in a 23-17 victory over San Francisco in the NFC championship game Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
They have been headliners throughout a season that was supposed to be highlighted by wide receivers Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice.
But injuries cost Harvin virtually the entire season, and Rice missed most of it, which thrust Baldwin and Kearse into key roles along with Golden Tate, by far the most heralded of the three after coming out of college as a second-round draft choice.
Baldwin and Kearse both came into the NFL as undrafted free agents. Baldwin is now in his third season and Kearse in his second.
Baldwin was second on the team in the regular season with 50 receptions, and he tied for the team lead in touchdown catches with Tate and tight end Zach Miller with five each.
Kearse had 22 catches for four touchdowns in the regular season.
Neither is blessed with eye-catching speed or size, and as long as Seattle looked good while winning, they didn’t draw much attention from the press.
But the scrutiny intensified when Seattle lost two of its last four regular season games in large part because of struggles in the passing game.
Both tasted great sweetness with Sunday’s victory, and for a lot of reasons in addition to the criticism they’ve been hearing from the experts.
For Kearse, they include the fact that he grew up in Tacoma and played college football at the University of Washington.
“Oh, man, you don’t even know,” Kearse said when asked if it was a dream come true to catch the decisive touchdown pass for the Seahawks in a championship game at CenturyLink.
“It’s crazy. Being from the state of Washington and being able to be a part of this team and make it to the Super Bowl, it’s an amazing feeling.”
For Baldwin, it meant something extra to defeat 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who was his coach at Stanford.
“I would be lying to you if I said it didn’t,” Baldwin said. “But at the same time I’ve got a lot of respect for that man and a lot of respect for the San Francisco 49ers and the players over there.”
As for the media, Baldwin has no doubt that national commentators will wax eloquent over Denver’s pass catchers in the run up to the Super Bowl while continuing to look down their noses at Seattle’s.
“I hope they do,” he said. “I pray to God they continuously doubt us and talk negative about us. That just adds fuel to the fire.”
Chances are, they’ll be listening.
“It irritates the hell out of me when guys constantly want to talk about receiving, talking about we’re average, we’re pedestrian,” Baldwin said.
“Well guess what? We’re going to walk our ass to the Super Bowl as pedestrians.”