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Phoenix — When the Lions signed Golden Tate last offseason, he seemed like a good fit to be the No. 2 receiver behind Calvin Johnson. As it turns out, Tate didn't play second fiddle to anyone as he finished 2014 sixth in receptions with 99 and seventh in receiving yards with 1,331.

Tate obliterated his career highs from his four seasons in Seattle, but his former teammates weren't surprised at all by his success.

"That's Golden Tate. We knew he was capable of putting up huge numbers only if he got more opportunities, so not surprised whatsoever," Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin said Tuesday.

"I had no doubt he was going to do that," Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse said. "I knew that he was going to have a great season. He's a great player, and his run after the catch is I think probably by far the best (in the NFL)."

Tate's run-after-catch ability is what makes he and Johnson such a formidable duo. While Johnson can challenge teams over the top, Tate can turn short catches into long gains. He led all receivers with 691 yards after catch.

And when Johnson was dealing with a high-ankle sprain, Tate stepped up his game. Johnson was hampered in two games and missed three due to the injury, but the Lions went 4-1 in those games as Tate averaged 7.8 receptions and 119.8 yards in those five games.

"The thing is he's like a running back that plays receiver," Kearse said. "I think that's what makes him special."

While watching Tate practice for three seasons, the 5-foot-10 Baldwin said he tried to mimic some of his run-after-catch ability, but admits his a completely different receiver. At 6-foot-1, Kearse is much different than the 5-foot-10 Tate, too.

For much of the season, it looked like the Seahawks could've used Tate's production, but it's hard to question their decision to let him walk in free agency as they prepare for their second-straight Super Bowl appearance. Still, the players missed Tate in the locker room.

"He's one of our close friends," Baldwin said. "We all hung out, so it was difficult to lose a guy that you're close to in the locker room."

Kearse echoed Baldwin's sentiment, calling Tate one of his best friends. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he missed Tate, too.

"I would have loved to have had him," he said. "I thought he was a great player. I always loved Golden, one of my favorite guys. Then, I hated that he had to go somewhere else, but I congratulate him. He had a great season and it was fun watching him."

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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