(Eds: Updates with quotes, details. With AP Photos.)|
By CURTIS CRABTREE
RENTON, Wash. (AP) - Sidney Rice and Golden Tate have become the go-to targets for Seattle Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.
Rice, healthy for the first time in three years, is enjoying a resurgence for the Seahawks. A hip injury derailed his final season in Minnesota before Rice signed with Seattle following the lockout.
Rice couldn't escape the injury bug last year, either, with a pair of bad shoulders and two concussions bringing his season to a premature end. Rice caught just 32 passes for 484 yards and two touchdowns in his first year with the Seahawks.
Tate is finally having the breakthrough he's been waiting for after two mostly unimpressive seasons in Seattle. Entering this season, Tate had never had more than 61 yards receiving in his two years a pro. Through 12 games, Tate has already matched or exceeded his career highs in catches (35), yards (486) and touchdowns (7).
As Wilson has continued to progress as a quarterback, Rice and Tate have shown they can be dynamic weapons in the Seattle passing game.
``We're out here having fun. It feels good to be a part of a team that's so committed to each other,'' Rice said.
The Seahawks' offense has become more reliant on the passing game over the past two months. While Seattle still heavily relies upon the legs of Marshawn Lynch to carry the load, the Seahawks have put more on the shoulders of Wilson and the offense has responded. Seattle is averaging over 25 points over its last five games.
``Ever since that Patriots game we've been really throwing it a good amount and guys making explosive plays,'' Wilson said.
The receiver tandem has stepped up and provided more production. Their seven touchdowns apiece are already the most by any Seahawks receiver since Darrell Jackson had 10 in 2006.
The receiver position for Seattle has constantly been devoid off top-end talent. They have not sent a receiver to the Pro Bowl since Brian Blades in 1989. While neither Rice nor Tate seem destined for Honolulu this season, they have helped elevate the Seahawks' offense in the second half of the season.
``We've been getting things rolling these last few weeks and we want to continue to build from there. We know we've got an opportunity to do something special,'' Rice said.
Rice finally feels healthy again and it's showing in his play on the field. He leads the team in all receiving categories with 43 catches for 623 yards and seven touchdowns. Rice took a blow to the head from Bears safety Major Wright while scoring the game-winning touchdown in Chicago, but has already been cleared and is expected to play this week against Arizona.
``It feels great. Just being back out here on the field, I'm enjoying it. I love it. I love being out on the field being able to make plays for my team,'' Rice said.
Tate credited Wilson's attention to detail and openness in discussing every aspect of the offense for the Seahawks' improved success in the second half of the season.
``Since the three years I've been here, we've never watched the film with the quarterback,'' Tate said. ``But after practice we watch the film with the quarterbacks. When there comes a ball that's an incompletion I always ask, `What do you think Russ,' and then he'll say what he thinks and then I'll say what I think, Sidney will say what he thinks. We're all on the same page I think. We still got some work to do but we're all on the same page and moving in the right direction.''
Tate believes the offense is just scratching the surface of their potential. With the passing game taking a step forward and a manageable schedule over their final four games, the Seahawks are looking to make a strong push to solidify a spot in the playoffs.
``I think with this offense the sky is the limit,'' Tate said.
Notes: The Seahawks added CB Chandler Fenner to the practice squad. ... DE Red Bryant (foot) and CB Marcus Trufant (hamstring) did not practice for a second straight day. S Kam Chancellor (groin) was also held out of practice Thursday. ... LB Leroy Hill (ankle) and C Max Unger (hip) were limited. ... RB Marshawn Lynch (back) and WR Sidney Rice (head) were able to fully participate.
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