RENTON -- Tyler Lockett is back.
After catching eight passes for 120 yards and a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers last Sunday, Lockett finally looked to be back to his old self after nearing a month battling a bad shin bruise and a case of the flu.
The Seahawks' offense had struggled to produce to its normal levels with Lockett at less than 100 percent. Lockett himself had caught just eight total passes for 107 yards combined in his previous four games before his bounce-back showing against the Panthers. With Josh Gordon now gone to a suspension and the playoffs fast approaching, getting Lockett back in form is a big step for Seattle's passing attack.
"Tyler is 100 percent. He's been rolling. He looks faster than before so I'm excited to throw him the football," quarterback Russell Wilson said on Thursday.
Lockett had been ailing since mid-November when a badly bruised shin required a stay in a Bay Area hospital following a win over the San Francisco 49ers. Then as the bruise began to fade away, Lockett became one of several Seahawks to become afflicted with the flu. As Lockett worked his way through the illness, he just didn't have the same burst and explosiveness that he's used to having.
"He was just kind of battling through," Wilson said after the win over the Panthers. "He is such a tough warrior in how he prepares and how he plays, plays through injuries and stuff like that. He is back to full speed Tyler Lockett, which is a great thing for us.
The Seahawks had averaged 24.8 points per game in their first 10 games of the season as Lockett amassed nearly 800 yards and six touchdowns over that span. Lockett was on pace to potentially break franchise receiving records for yards and receptions in a single season until his recent swoon.
But it wasn't just Lockett's numbers that suffered while he was fighting through injury and illness, Seattle's offense scuffled a bit as well. The Seahawks failed to score an offensive touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams and was held to just 17 points against the Philadelphia Eagles. A 37-30 win over the Minnesota Vikings was boosted by a 218-yard rushing performance instead.
“We’re better when he’s playing like that,” head coach Pete Carroll said. “You can see. Look at Russ’ efficiency numbers when he’s got Tyler on the field. That’s no accident. Russ was on a tear with his numbers. It’s great to have him back, he’s a wonderful football player.”
With injuries slammed the team's defense on Sunday, it was the offense that had to carry the day. Jadeveon Clowney and Mychal Kendricks didn't make the trip to Charlotte due to the flu and a hamstring injury, respectively. Shaquill Griffin (hamstring) and Ziggy Ansah (neck) were inactive as well and then Bobby Wagner and Quandre Diggs were sidelined during the game with ankle injuries.
As the defense did its best to make it through the game, Lockett's resurgence helped the offense do its part. It was Lockett's best showing since catching 13 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Nov. 3. Lockett then injured his shin the following week against the 49ers. Lockett's presence subsequently provides more opportunity for his fellow receivers as well due to Lockett's prowess stretching the field.
“It felt good but the biggest thing about it was everybody on our team can ball, so even when I’m not getting the chances or anything like that, you see other people that are being able to take advantage of their opportunities.” Lockett said. “For me, that’s just the biggest thing because if you just have one person that teams can focus on, a team’s not really going to be able to go far."
Lockett's second catch of the game was a 44-yard strike behind tight coverage from cornerback Donte Jackson. Lockett had run directly at the safety in the middle of the field as DK Metcalf occupied Jackson, but when Lockett broke his route back toward the sideline Jackson tried to retreat underneath the throw. The ball just skimmed over Jackson into Lockett's arms for the second-longest gain of the day for Seattle.
“It was a beautiful sight because you see some amazing things, like that catch he had,” receiver David Moore said. “Everybody probably thought it was going to be a pick but somehow Tyler came up with it.”
Lockett is no longer on pace to eclipse the 94 catches held by Doug Baldwin and Bobby Engram or the 1,287 yards held by Steve Largent. He is still just six yards shy of reaching 1,000 yards for the first time in his career after assuming the No. 1 role in the Seahawks' offense following Baldwin's retirement.
"It was great to see it," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "He felt good. The catch he made, the big one down on our boundary early in the game on (Jackson) was an unbelievable catch. I still don't know how he finishes some of those plays. We kind of anticipated it might be a good day for him."
Photo Credit: CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 15: Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett #16 runs the ball against Carolina Panthers in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)