'It's been hell': Doug Baldwin finally feels back after injury-filled start

Baldwin: 'Feels great to be back in the end zone' (2:17)

Doug Baldwin talks about his health, what it's like to be back in playoff contention and playing against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. (2:17)

SEATTLE -- In one word, Doug Baldwin summed up four months of frustration and his relief that it appears to be behind him.

He was asked after the Seattle Seahawks' 27-24 win over the Green Bay Packers about catching the first touchdown pass of what's been the most trying season of his career.

"Finally," Baldwin said. "Finally. That's all I can say."

There was the injury to one knee early in training camp that sidelined him for a month. Then there was the injury to his other knee in the season opener in Denver that forced him to miss the second half of that game and all of the next two. Three weeks after returning, he hyper-extended his elbow against the Raiders in London. While he's been able to play through that injury, he revealed Thursday night that it was more serious than most knew, calling it a tear of his ulnar collateral ligament.

"It's been hell," Baldwin said. "It's been hell. ... I've never had this many injuries before. So it's been a journey, that's for sure. But it's been a journey that I've come to appreciate because it's taught me a lot about myself not only as a football player but as a man, and how I handle these challenges."

Baldwin may have had his outburst from Week 3 in mind as one challenge he could have handled differently. The FOX broadcast caught him losing his cool during a sideline conversation with one of the team's top scouts. He later chalked it up, in part, to frustration of not being able to play. His second knee injury had snapped his streak of 89 consecutive games played, which had been the fourth-longest among active receivers.

Baldwin entered Thursday's game with 23 catches for 275 yards and no touchdowns, atypical production for the guy who led the Seahawks in receiving in five of his first seven NFL seasons. His seven games without a touchdown to begin this year matched the longest drought of his career.

It looked like it would finally end when Baldwin was wide open in the end zone in the first quarter, but Russell Wilson's pass sailed over his head. The two nearly connected in the end zone in the second quarter. They finally did when Seattle ran a similar play to the opposite corner of the end zone on the next snap, with Wilson lobbing a 6-yard touchdown pass to Baldwin.

He finished with seven catches on 10 targets -- both season-highs -- for 52 yards. One of his receptions was a slick one-hander on a poorly thrown bubble screen from Wilson. On another, he got open by putting cornerback Jaire Alexander on skates with a triple move.

"I thought Doug played really well," coach Pete Carroll said. "... We missed him once, or a couple times really. He's ready to have big games. Again, we didn't throw the ball very much tonight, so there's not a lot of throws, but he's such a good player. He's such a good come-through guy. I thought he played terrific tonight and I'm glad to see we had a chance to get him in the end zone finally."

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer marveled on Tuesday at how spry Baldwin looked last week against the Rams. Baldwin said that was the first game in which he didn't feel like he was being held back by pain in the knee he injured over the summer.

"Today was another step in that process," he said.

Wilson and Baldwin had talked recently about recreating their scorching finish from 2015. The Seahawks were 4-5 that year with their season in danger of slipping away -- just like they were heading into Thursday night's game. The most proficient stretch of Wilson's and Baldwin's careers led the Seahawks to wins in six of their final seven games. Wilson tossed 24 touchdowns to one interception in that span, with 11 of those TDs going to Baldwin.

Those are video game numbers that may not be matched anytime soon, especially with Seattle's offense being driven by a No. 1-ranked running game that has now topped 150 yards in seven straight times. But that offense, which has averaged almost 27 points over the last six games, even with all that running, becomes more dangerous now that its No. 1 receiver is back.