With the 49ers coming off a fantastic 2011 season, there weren't many who would have predicted that the Seahawks would still be challenging San Francisco for the NFC West division lead in Week 16 of the 2012 season. But that's what we'll see Sunday, when 9-5 Seattle faces the 10-3-1 49ers. No matter what, the Seahawks won't be in first place after this week, but a win would inch them closer to the postseason.
Golden Tate is one reason Seattle is still relevant. You'll remember that he caught the game-winning touchdown pass ("caught" being a subjective term) vs. the Packers that filled Week 3 with controversy and ended the replacement referees reign, and he's having the best season of his three-year career after some wondered whether the former second-round pick would ever figure out how to be an effective NFL player.
We caught up with Tate this week as he prepared for one of the most important games of the season. We discussed why the Seahawks' offense has been so potent lately, how Russell Wilson should be an offensive rookie of the year candidate, and the ethics of running up the score on an opponent.
Previous Five Questions (or more):
Sept. 14: Former quarterback, author Dan Pastorini
Sept. 21: "Head Games" director Steve James
Sept. 28: Vikings kicker Blair Walsh
Oct. 5: Cardinals linebacker Sam Acho
Oct. 26: Texans linebacker Connor Barwin
Nov. 2: Colts tackle Winston Justice
Nov. 16: "Coaching Confidential" author Gary Myers
Dec. 1: Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth
1. CBSSports.com: What's gotten into you guys? You've scored 108 points in the past two games, and the offense is clicking at an unbelievable rate. The defense is playing well, and everything just seems to be going well. What is going on in Seattle?
Golden Tate: These past two games, we've been playing championship football. That means the defense, the offense, the special teams and the coaching staff were jelling at the right time. A lot of times, the defense was playing well and the offense wasn't going well, or the offense and defense were doing good, but maybe not the special teams. Everyone is doing their part now. We're all executing our plays and staying away from turnovers and negative plays. It's showing. We're capitalizing.
CBS: And, obviously, this is a good time to peak. Well, maybe peaking over the next month or so would be better, but still.
Tate: We're still doing some growing. We're playing better than the week before, and then we go from there.
2. CBS: Regarding last week's fake punt [pulled when the Seahawks were leading the Bills by 30 with about 12 minutes to play], you've obviously been on one side of a butt-kicking like that and I imagine you've been on the other side as well. Media and fans make their own opinions about teams running up the score, and Patriots coach Bill Belichick has gotten criticism in the past for doing it. But as a player going through it, what are your thoughts when something like that happens?
Tate: As far as the special teams play, we work hard during the week preparing for the looks they're going to give us. And they gave us the perfect look. We just ran the play. As far as running the score up, we're not doing anything special. We're just executing our plays. We're still continuing to play situational football. We kind of look at it as we can get better, we can still learn things about ourselves, regardless of the score. We weren't doing anything but calling plays and running them. On the play, their defense happened to be in the right spot. We hit them hard. What do you want us to do? We can't kneel down with 13 minutes to play.
3. CBS: Right, but if you were on the other side of a blowout like that, does a player take that same philosophy?
Tate: I've never been on the opposite side to that extent. This is the NFL. The National Football League. We all have the same amount of days to prepare. How you do that, that's your business. We went out and stuck with our plan. I don't know what the other team is thinking. But I can imagine the two teams in the past two weeks [the Cardinals in Week 14 and the Bills last week] feeling like they don't have much of a chance. Those guys are probably thinking that it's been a really long season and, "What are we really playing for?" More so in the Cardinals game [a 58-0 victory], they just weren't into it that much. They didn't want to be there. That's not our problem. We can't come down to their tempo. We don't want to skip a beat.
4. CBS: In your third year in the NFL, it really seems like you've broken out and become the player a lot of people thought you could be when you were drafted. What's the difference this season?
Tate: I honestly think it's a lot of things. It starts with the coaching staff. They really wanted me to do well this year. They pushed me, regardless of whether I was ready or not, and I responded positively. I had a young quarterback [in Russell Wilson] coming in. He has a lot of talent, and he saw my attitude. It started in OTAs, him giving me some chances. It kept building. It kept gaining. Not only with Russell and Matt [Flynn's] trust of me, but with the organization's trust of me. It came from a great offseason, working hard. It was the best offseason I've had.
5. CBS: So much of the talk about rookies has been focused on Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, but Russell Wilson has been really good this year, also. Is he a guy who should be considered for offensive rookie of the year as well?
Tate: I definitely think he should be in the mix. For one, before the draft had even happened, we all knew Andrew Luck and RG3 were going to be the top two picks. You expect those guys to be rookie of the year and for those guys to do well. I don't think many people expected Russell Wilson to win the starting job and lead this team to hopefully the playoffs. I think he should be in the talk. I honestly think he should be the leader for rookie of the year.
CBS: Plus his consistency. I think he's been more consistently good than either Luck or RG3. That has to count for something.
Tate: Like you said, he's been consistent. He hasn't had that game where he throws three picks or whatever. Every game we've lost, we've been in the game and had a chance to win. I'm very excited about this kid.
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