INDIANAPOLIS, IN – With the play clock winding down and the Seahawks in a trips right formation at the Colts 23-yard line, Russell Wilson scanned the defense and quickly stepped with his right foot, signaling to center Kyle Fuller he was ready for the snap.
As the clock approached zero, Fuller fired the football back to Wilson, who took a three-step drop while facing seven defenders coming at him on the blitz. Once he settled at the end of his drop, with linebacker Darius Leonard and other defenders zeroing in on him, he lofted a ball to receiver Tyler Lockett in the end zone that looked like an errant throw coming out of his hand.
But even though Lockett looked to be running a skinny post from the slot, the location of the throw turned out to be by design. Not fooled by their schematic disguising and understanding Indianapolis didn’t have a safety dropping back into zone, Wilson trustfully threw the ball to his receiver’s right where only he would be able to make the grab and the cornerback in coverage was shielded inside.
As Lockett has done countless times during his six prior NFL seasons in Seattle both on the practice field and in games, he turned his head both directions as he tracked the football in the air and masterfully adjusted, displaying impeccable focus and concentration to get underneath the throw and haul it in to give Seattle a 7-3 advantage with 1:26 to go in the first quarter. The highlight reel snag proved to be a decisive play early in the team's eventual 28-16 season opening win at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
"I had a feeling that's what they were going to do, go Cover 0 and kind of change it up a bit," Wilson explained after the game. "Sure enough, they did in a key situation. Tyler just does a great job - we've hit that before - I just threw it high enough he could react... give him a chance to track it down and find the ball. He made a beautiful catch."
"He could have thrown it all the way across the field if he wanted to," Lockett said of Wilson. "When there's pressure that is coming, you gotta be able to let it go and as a receiver, you've gotta be able to adjust to wherever the throw is."
When it comes to finding the end zone, Wilson and Lockett rank among the NFL's elite at hooking up for touchdowns. Teaming up for six points 28 different times over the past three seasons, only three other quarterback/receiver pairings have found pay dirt more frequently.
But even given their extensive track records of torching opposing defenses, as evidenced in the Seahawks 28-16 season-opening win over the Colts on Sunday, the dynamic duo of Wilson and Lockett still find new ways to amaze, astonish, and bewilder. After seeing them torch opponents for the past several years, coach Pete Carroll can't help but be blown away by their incredible chemistry on the field.
“Amazing. Just incredible stuff,” Carroll said in his post-game press conference, comparing the catch to Hall of Fame baseball player Willie Mays, who Lockett admitted he hadn't heard of. “The one against the blitz, you’d be surprised how we practiced that throw and that catch and if you looked at it knowing in pre-game he was working on that exact catch with the ball coming in just like that.”
As Wilson loves to say, the "separation is in the preparation," and Lockett was glad to see his pre-game practice with receivers coach Nate Carroll paid off for Seattle's first touchdown of the season.
"Who would have knew I was going to have one of those throws today? I'm happy I was able to work on that before the game and luckily I got a chance to make a catch," Lockett said.
Coming out firing on all cylinders in the debut of new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron's offense, Wilson wasn't done inflicting damage on the Colts' secondary linking up with Lockett.
Holding a 14-10 advantage with under a minute to play in the second quarter, the Seahawks faced a 2nd and 20 situation from their own 31-yard line. On the previous two plays, a long gain to tight end Gerald Everett had been wiped out by an illegal formation penalty and Wilson lost five yards on a sack.
With Seattle nursing a lead and set to receive the opening kickoff in the second half, most teams would have considered running out the clock and going into the break without risking a turnover in that situation. But Wilson and Waldron wanted to stay aggressive, dialing up a shot play to see if Indianapolis could be caught napping.
Benefiting from a perfect pocket created by the Seahawks offensive line, Wilson launched a picturesque 69-yard rainbow to Lockett, who blew past the safety and had several steps on the closest defender. The quarterback hit him in stride and as the receiver joked after the game, he was thankful he was able to keep his feet after the catch to score the back-breaking touchdown.
"That was a great throw," Lockett smiled. "He put it right there on the money and even when I was out there [on the field], I said it was a dime, so that was a pretty ball."
While Waldron's arrival as the new play caller was expected to lead to more emphasis on the quick strike passing game, few knew how much his presence would change how often the Seahawks attacked downfield through the air. But that question was answered emphatically by the deep ball to Lockett, who hit 100 receiving yards in a game for the 11th time in his career and seventh time since 2018.
In addition, Lockett's sidekick in Seattle's two-headed receiving monster, DK Metcalf, rebounded from having zero targets in the first half to post four catches for 60 yards and a 15-yard touchdown in the final two quarters. He came wide open on a 30-yard reception, providing further proof the team will remain aggressive going after big plays when the defense gives them the opportunity.
What was Lockett's biggest takeaway? The Seahawks excelled at taking what the Colts' defense allowed them to do and didn't force the ball to anyone, which has been the goal all along since Waldron - who Wilson has called a wizard on multiple occasions - was hired back in January. If Sunday's victory was any indication, both he and Metcalf will remain dangerous as ever catching passes from Wilson with a few new weapons around them and a playbook offering more multiplicity to make life challenging for opponents.
And of course, with all those positives, expect plenty more magic tricks from Wilson and Lockett of their own regardless of where they take their act each weekend.