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So that’s why Richard Sherman is an All-Pro, and likely the best cornerback in the National Football League.
The Tennessee Titans spent most of Sunday afternoon throwing away from Sherman in their game against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. But with the Seahawks in need of another big play after taking a 13-10 lead in the fourth quarter, Sherman duped Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick – with a little help from All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas – and made an interception that led to what proved to be a game-winning touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch in their 20-13 victory.
“We kind of made it rough on ourselves today,” coach Pete Carroll said after his team had fumbled the ball five times (losing two) and scored only two TDs on five trips inside the Titans’ 20-yard line. “We made enough mistakes to make it a close game.”
None of the Seahawks’ mistakes, however, was as costly as Fitzpatrick’s decision to test Sherman, who has a league-leading 15 interceptions since stepping into the starting lineup midway through his rookie season in 2011. But Fitzpatrick figured he’d give it a shot with Thomas fudging toward one side of the field and Sherman in single coverage against wide receiver Nate Washington on the other. Bad decision.
“I played receiver for a long time,” said Sherman, a wide receiver at Dominguez High School in Compton, Calif. and also his first three seasons at Stanford. “You get good at locating the football. You’ve got to find that dark dot. You look up in the blue sky and all you’ve got to find is the dot. I was able to find it.
“He pushed the ball inside and I went to high-point it and get the ball before Nate Washington got it. Those are the plays we have to make as a defense. We put it on us. We put pressure on ourselves to make plays like that when our team needs them. If they’re going to take a shot like that on us, we’ve got to make them pay for it.”
Offered Thomas, who also had an interception in the first quarter, “We talked about it before the series, because we felt like they were trying to attack the other side. They weren’t going to go at Richard. So I leaned the other way and, boom, he stayed on top and the ball came right to him. Great job by Sherm. Best corner in the league.”
Added Sherman, “I was a little surprised he threw it, to tell you the truth.”
The win also was the Seahawks’ 11th in a row at CenturyLink Field and also lifted them into a tie for the best record in the NFC with the New Orleans Saints, who visit CenturyLink Field in Week 13 for another “Monday Night Football” matchup.
But this one didn’t come as easily as the previous 10 home wins.
The offense needed every one of the 155 yards generated by Marshawn Lynch – 77 rushing on 21 carries and a career-high 78 receiving on four receptions – and each of his touchdown runs. The Seahawks also needed more magic from second-year quarterback Russell Wilson, who completed 23 of 31 passes for 257 yards, ran 10 times for 61 yards and time and again was able to turn what looked like nothing into something.
“That’s the type of player we know Marshawn as,” wide receiver Golden Tate said. “He’s going to come up big when you need him. He had some great runs.”
That same description applies to Wilson.
“I’m not concerned about our offense at all. I think we’re doing a great job,” Wilson said. “I felt like I was in tune with the offense. I felt like I was really clicking with the guys today.”
The special teams gave the Titans their only touchdown, as Jason McCourty returned a Chris Maragos fumble 77 yards of a fumbled snap on a field goal attempt for the final play of the first half. Chris Maragos? He was the holder because holder/punter Jon Ryan was the kicker, because kicker Steven Hauschka was in the locker room being checked out for a possible concussion after a second-quarter collision with Titans’ kickoff return man Darius Reynaud.
But the defense entered this game looking to make amends for allowing the Colts to score 11 fourth-quarter points in last week’s six-point loss in Indianapolis.
“Last week was unacceptable,” said K.J. Wright, who slid from weak-side linebacker to middle linebacker to replace the injured Bobby Wagner and led the defense with seven tackles. “So we came out today wanting to prove just how good this defense is – one of the best out there. So we had to come back and make a statement.”
Statement made, and received. They held the Titans to six points and 223 total yards, and limited Chris Johnson to 33 yards on 12 carries. And, of course, there were the big and timely interceptions by Thomas and Sherman.
The Seahawks were embracing this win so tightly that they can’t wait to get back on the field, even when that will happen in just four days – the middle game in a stretch where they’ll play three times in 16 days.
“It’s great for us to have this short week,” said Tate, the Seahawks’ leading receiver in this game (five catches for 33 yards) and in this season (23 for 269). “I can’t wait to get out there and play some more football. I feel like the only ones that can stop us is us.”
“Our motto this year is ‘What’s next?’ ”