It was the three T’s -- Tate’s Touchdown Taunt -- but it also proved to be the difference in the game.
No. 1: Golden Tate’s 80-yard TD at St. Louis.
The Seahawks led 7-6 in the third quarter on Monday night at St. Louis. The Rams had completely shut down the Seattle running game. Marshawn Lynch would end the night with a season-worst 23 yards on only eight carries.
Quarterback Russell Wilson would take a beating, getting sacked seven times on the night. Seattle would end the game with only 135 yards of offense.
The only touchdown of the game in the first half was a 2-yard quick slant from Wilson to Tate, who managed to step in the end zone before going down.
But Seattle had just 43 yards of offense when the key moment came. It was a one-point game when the Seahawks had a second-and-10 at their 20.
Wilson took the shotgun snap and faked a handoff to Lynch, then rolled to his right. Wilson looked back to the left, where Tate was racing down the sideline on a fly pattern.
Tate had a couple of steps on Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins, but Jenkins still had his eye on Wilson as Wilson made the throw. It looked like Jenkins might come up with the interception, but Tate jumped up in front of Jenkins at the St. Louis 39 and made the catch as Jenkins fell to the turf.
It was off the races for Tate, but he had to rub it in on the way to the end zone. Tate held the ball in his left hand as Rams safety Rodney McLeod tried to catch him.
Tate held out his right hand, at first motioning bye-bye to McLeod. As McLeod got closer, Tate motioned his fingers at him, as if to say, stop yapping. As a result, McLeod almost caught Tate before he reached the end zone.
The sparse crowd (the Cardinals were playing a World Series game eight blocks away) booed Tate, who was flagged for taunting.
As Tate went and sat on the bench, coach Pete Carroll went over and sat next to him. Carroll had a clear message.
“That’s not our kind of football,” Carroll said afterward. “It’s not who we are and not what we do. There’s no place for that. It kind of washes away a fantastic football play.”
Tate apologized after the game.
“That was immature of me,” Tate said. “I hurt my team. I’ve gotta stay composed. It was a learning moment for me and I’ll move forward. I’m better than that.”
The play was so controversial it brought discussions the following week about whether the NFL should change the rules to take away a TD on a taunt when a player scores.
But in all the commotion, people forget it also was a game-winning touchdown. The Rams kicked a fourth-quarter field goal and lost 14-9 after falling short one yard short of the Seattle end zone at the end of the game.
As fate would have it, Tate had a similar catch-and-run TD on a 47-yard play in the game against the Rams that ended the regular season. But there was no taunt on that one.
Tate had the best season of his career in 2013 and now is a free agent about to earn millions of dollars. He learned his lesson, but he also was the reason Seattle won that game.