Breaking Down Golden Tate's Big Game Against Arizona

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Breaking Down Golden Tate's Big Game Against Arizona
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

There were plenty of standouts for the Seattle Seahawks from their 34-22 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Perhaps, the most intriguing performance came from wide receiver Golden Tate

Tate's 77 yards receiving on four catches led the team in receiving, and he added a punt return for a touchdown that was unfortunately called back due to a frustrating penalty. In this case, though, the amazing part of Tate's performance wasn't what he did, but rather how he did it. 

Tate has had better statistical games over his career, as outlined by Pro-Football-Reference.com, but this was probably his best game based on the game tape. His routes were clean and crisp. He set up defenders, got them turned around and created separation that his quarterback could use. 

There were no bubble screens, no motioning Tate to fullback to get him on a linebacker, none of the stuff the Seahawks usually do to get the ball in the hands of their young playmaker. It was just quarterback Russell Wilson dropping back to pass and Tate getting open against man coverage. 

Perhaps, the best part was that Tate was able to get open, despite being covered by one of the NFL's top cornerbacks. The Cardinals had Patrick Peterson matched up on Tate for most of the game, and Tate still had no difficulty getting open regularly. 

Tate didn't just get open on the plays in which he was targeted. He was getting separation on almost every pass play. Some of his best routes came on plays where Wilson never even looked in Tate's direction. 

Here are a few plays that demonstrate just how effective Tate was at getting separation in this game:

 

The Broken Play

Here is a play where Tate gets open for what should have been a big play, but the blocking breaks down, and Wilson never gets a chance to see Tate running open on the outside. 

The Seahawks run play action to the left and flood the right side of the formation hoping to overwhelm Arizona's zone on that side. Tate runs a corner route on the right, making him the deep route on the play.

Unfortunately, not all of the Cardinals bit on the play-fake. The unblocked outside linebacker attacked the point where Wilson was going set up and completely blew up this play. 

Sadly, this didn't have to be the case. Rookie tight end Luke Willson was running across the formation and could easily see the OLB blitzing directly in front of him. Willson needs to adjust and pick up the linebacker and help out his QB.

Tate runs a nice route, selling an inside move before breaking outside. Tate is clearly open, and there is a nice throwing lane for Wilson to gun the ball in there well before Tate reaches the sideline. Had Wilson been able to set up and throw, it would have been a footrace down the sideline between Tate and the safety.  

 

The Rice-Challenge Play

Here's another instance where Tate runs a good route and gets open, only to have the ball end up elsewhere. This is the long pass to wide receiver Sidney Rice that was initially ruled incomplete and then switched to a completion upon a challenge from head coach Pete Carroll. 

As you can see in the picture, all three Seattle wide receivers are open on this play. Doug Baldwin is actually open deep since the safety is late getting over to help. If Wilson throws an accurate ball to Baldwin, it's an easy touchdown. 

At the bottom of the picture, you can see Tate, who's broken open on a deep-in route. That's difficult to do given CB Peterson was in an inside trail position before the break. 

Wilson had rolled away from Tate because of some pressure, making Tate the third option on this play, and that is unfortunate. With all that green space in front of him, and given Tate's natural skills once the ball is in his hands, it's possible that Tate would have put together a highlight-reel run had the pass been to him on this play. 

 

Tate's Biggest Play

Of course, no breakdown of Tate's big day against Arizona would be complete without the following play. If you watched the game on Thursday, you'll recognize the pictures from below.

Tate and Rice both line up on the same side and run parallel inside slants. Rice is in the slot, and while he doesn't get open on this play, his route does ensure that there will be linebackers stepping into the throwing lane between Wilson and Tate.     

Tate's initial move is to the outside. He sells that he's going to take off down the sideline on some deep route. Peterson buys it and turns his hips to the outside to try and run with the receiver.

Tate only takes one full step before jumping to the inside for his slant route, leaving Peterson in his dust. Tate is able to get great separation, and Wilson hits him in stride for a nice gain. 

This is the point where Tate's athleticism takes over. He knows that Peterson is running full speed trying to recover, so instead of cutting upfield into the tackle, Tate stops and lets Peterson overrun the play. 

Tate loops to the outside and finds nothing but green space waiting for him.

By the time Peterson and the safety had chased Tate out of bounds, he'd managed to turn an eight-yard pass into a 32-yard gain. 

 

Putting It All Together

This is the type of effort that the Seahawks have been needing out of Tate. His routes were sharp, and his cuts were explosive. Tate was covered by one of the league's best cornerbacks for most of the game, and Tate managed to get open on most plays. 

He has always had the ability to run better routes but has rarely done so on game days. With Tate's natural athleticism and playmaking ability, improved route-running would make him one of the most explosive receivers in the NFL, but he's simply never been able to take that step before. 

Now, Tate must show that this performance is repeatable. He has to show that he can produce this type of effort each and every week. If he can do that, it'll mean big things for the Seahawks this year, and it'll mean that Tate will earn himself a very large new contract in this coming offseason. 

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