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A Receiver You’ve Never Heard of Delivered the Catch of the Year

Seattle’s Paul Richardson dropped jaws — and caused controversy — against Detroit

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Raise your hand if you thought that Seattle’s big matchup might deliver a little bit of controversy.

Yeah, me too.

OK, now raise your hand if you predicted that Paul Richardson would deliver the catch of the year.

If you’re saying “Who?” instead of lifting your arms into the air, you’re probably not alone. Seattle’s third-year wideout caught just 21 passes all season for 288 yards while functioning mostly as the Seahawks’ fourth or fifth option in the passing game behind Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Jimmy Graham, and Tyler Lockett (when healthy). But on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line with 7:07 left in the second quarter of his team’s wild-card showdown with the Detroit Lions, Richardson delivered an instantly star-making one-handed touchdown catch on one of the most ridiculous reach-through-the-defender grabs I’ve ever seen.

Russell Wilson’s lob toward the sideline was too slow and too low, which forced Richardson to stop his route and come back to the ball, fight through pass interference, yet somehow manage to scoop it and pull it into his body for the game’s first score.

Take a closer look at the play, and that “somehow” become a little clearer: Part of the reason Richardson one-handed it was because his other hand was on Detroit defender Tavon Wilson’s face mask, an unfortunate non-call for the Lions that would’ve meant offsetting penalties.

As the game’s second half commenced, NBC’s Michele Tafoya said that referees told Lions head coach Jim Caldwell that they got the call wrong (a claim referee Brad Allen denied after the game), but that the play was unreviewable. It wouldn’t be the playoffs — or a Seahawks game — without some sort of officiating version of the thinking-face emoji.

Regardless, it’s exactly the type of play the Seattle offense badly needed. After struggling in the red zone all year — converting just 46 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line into touchdowns, 28th in the NFL — it looked like that futility near the end zone was going to continue on Saturday night. But on the fourth down, on a play that probably should’ve failed, Richardson made an impossible-looking play possible, fueling Seattle’s hopes.

And he didn’t stop there: In the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, with Seattle leading 19–6 and looking to seal the game, Richardson extended for another stunning one-handed grab, once again managing to bring in the ball despite drawing PI:

Few people outside of Seattle knew Richardson’s name entering a game that Seattle eventually won 26–6, and in which he caught three passes for 48 yards and that tone-setting score. But no one’s going to forget it as the Seahawks prepare to face the Falcons next weekend.