With All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson covering him as tightly as is legally allowed, Lockett reached out with his left hand as he went into a dive to snag a perfectly placed deep throw from Russell Wilson. His right hand didn't touch the ball until he had already completed the 34-yard reception on the opening play of the Seahawks' overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals this past Sunday.
It would have been harder to believe if it hadn't happened so many times before.
Statistically speaking, it wasn't even the most improbable catch Lockett made Sunday night.
Wilson and his most reliable wide receiver have made the unlikely look almost routine over the past three seasons and did so three more times during Lockett's 15-catch, 200-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Cardinals.
"Tyler Lockett's game was just crazy," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He just did so many terrific things, so many special plays, and just again, he's just a great football player and he showed it again."
NFL Next Gen Stats measures completion probability based on factors such as separation between receiver and defender, pass distance, time to throw and field location. What the quarterback and his intended target are facing also come into play. Lockett's game-opening catch over Peterson had a completion probability of 21.3%, the third lowest of any catch he's made since his breakout season in 2018.
First on that list by a wide margin was the touchdown he caught while falling out of the back corner of the end zone last season against the Los Angeles Rams. At 6.3%, that was tied for the lowest completion probability on a touchdown in the NFL over the last three years (with Wilson's 38-yard TD to David Moore in Week 2 of this season).
After that? The 47-yard touchdown Lockett caught in the second quarter Sunday night, which had a completion probability of 18.6%. Wilson's throw had an air distance of 58.8 yards and Lockett had 0.73 yards of separation against Peterson when he caught it, making it the longest tight-window touchdown pass in the NFL in the past two seasons (Next Gen Stats defines a tight window as less than a yard of separation when the ball arrives.)
Lockett's top-10 list from the past three seasons includes one more from the Arizona loss: his 3-yard touchdown over Dre Kirkpatrick, which was ruled good when replay showed he got both feet in as he fell out of the back of the end zone. That was seventh at 25.9%.
𝓪 𝔀𝓸𝓻𝓴 𝓸𝓯 𝓪𝓻𝓽 pic.twitter.com/wulObx0aSC— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) October 26, 2020
"There's times where we might practice it," Lockett said of those toe-dragging catches, "but honestly I think it just ends up happening. There's times where we don't even know how we did it. All we can say is, 'That's God.' We don't know. But I think what you've seen this year is even David [Moore], he's made so many spectacular toe-drags. We always talk about it and we just talk about how we just try to make plays and sometimes those are the plays that you're looking at the ref trying to figure out how did it even happen."
Lockett now has 12 touchdown catches on throws with a completion probability below 40% since 2018 -- tied with Adam Thielen for the most in the NFL -- while his 28 receptions on such throws are third most. No one has more receiving touchdowns in that span (on any throws) than Lockett's 25.
He became Wilson's No. 1 receiver in 2018, when Doug Baldwin dealt with one injury after another in what turned out to be his final season. But DK Metcalf was actually leading the Seahawks in targets, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns heading into Sunday night's game. The Cardinals neutralized Metcalf, as they did last December, but couldn't stop Lockett from having the game of his career.
His 200 yards were second most in a game in Seahawks history behind Steve Largent's 261 on Oct. 18, 1987. Lockett's 15 catches tied Largent's franchise record from the same game. His 20 targets were also a career high. Since the 1970 merger, only one other player (Jimmy Smith in 2000) aside from Lockett and Largent have had a game with 15 catches, 200 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
"He just made so many special plays," Wilson said. "He was unbelievable. Just the post route he caught in the back of the end zone, that was an amazing catch by him."
That fourth-quarter touchdown, which came on fourth-and-2, was initially ruled good, changed to an incompletion on the field and then changed back upon an official review. Carroll didn't need to get a second look before deciding to challenge the call.
"The great touchdown catches [are] what we've seen him do," Carroll said. "We figured that because Tyler did it, he was in bounds before we could even see the replay, that he would have figured that out, and he did. I still haven't seen the play clearly, but I know what he was doing; he was dragging his toes and he just made an extraordinary catch.
"It's one thing to make a catch like that some time in your life, but to do it every time you get a chance, it's pretty crazy -- and particularly under pressure and the stress of the game and the situation, all that. He's a phenomenal, phenomenal football player."