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Paul Richardson might finally be ready to take the next step

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When the Seattle Seahawks drafted Paul Richardson in the second round of the 2014 draft, fans were excited at the thought of getting another dynamic receiving threat who could take the top off of defenses consistently. His rookie year was an up and down affair that didn’t feature a whole lot of explosiveness.

An unfortunate progression of injuries ended P-Rich’s rookie season and limited his sophomore campaign to only one reception. Heading into 2016, I dubbed him as a breakout candidate who had the potential to go off as a weapon in the Seattle offense.

This season was largely a disappointment for Richardson, who couldn’t take advantage of injuries to Tyler Lockett or a horrible regular season from Jermaine Kearse.

Last night, though, there seemed to be a changing of the tides during Seattle’s Wild Card win against the Detroit Lions.

On four targets, Richardson hauled in three receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown. While that stat line might not light the world on fire, the nature of the catches essentially blew up the internet.

His first reception, a brilliant one-handed touchdown on fourth down, set the world on fire.

Yeah, it was some insane Odell ish. We don’t really need to get into that, because you’ve probably watched it on loop about 70 times.

While that catch would have been insanely promising had it been his only catch of the night, Richardson built upon that with two more spectacular grabs, the first of which set up the Seahawks for a field goal in the 2nd quarter:

Richardson gets an outside release at the line and runs a go route down the field. Wilson drops and then floats a pass up the left sideline, which Richardson spots in time to make an adjustment. He elevates and attacks the ball at the highest point, battling through coverage to make the acrobatic catch.

There’s really not a whole lot a defensive back can do to defend that play. Richardson has been widely known for his speed, but his ability to haul in jump balls has been underrated through his career. He just hasn’t been consistently healthy enough to show it off more than a couple of times.

P-Rich’s third and final catch came in the final period on a drive that ended in Seattle’s final touchdown of the night:

Lined up in the left slot, Richardson simply runs past his man. Wilson recognizes that his receiver is over the top of the corner and he pulls the trigger just before pressure gets home. The defensive back tangles with Richardson’s inside arm, but it doesn’t matter. The crafty wideout needs but only his left arm to haul in his third highlight grab of the night.

This could all be a fluke. This could also be the emergence of yet another dangerous weapon that we have looked forward to for almost three seasons. No matter the case, seeing Richardson play so well on such a big stage has to be encouraging moving forward.

Without Earl Thomas, the NFL’s best offense in Atlanta will likely put up some points on the Seahawks next Saturday. To keep up, Seattle will need every ounce of explosiveness they can muster to counter punch and advance to the NFC Championship.

Paul Richardson has the potential to provide a spark in this endeavor. Judging from his performance last night, I expect him to.