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Richard Sherman getting the last word

Posted Oct 2, 2013

They were talking about Richard Sherman again on Sunday night, but this time the conversation centered on what the All-Pro cornerback is doing in the field, not what he’s saying off the field.

They were talking about Richard Sherman on the NFL highlight programs again Sunday night, but this time they weren’t talking about how much he talks.

And that, as much as anything, might be the best indication of just how well the All-Pro cornerback is playing as the Seahawks are off to the first 4-0 start in franchise history.

“Hey, finally,” Sherman said through a smile Monday morning as he was relaxing in one of the recliners in the locker room at Virginia Mason Athletic Center when told that the TV talk had centered on the constructive rather than the controversial.

“We’re getting somewhere. We’re getting somewhere.”

Sherman generated tons of conversation during the offseason, but it almost always was rooted in his ability to talk a good game.

As the Seahawks prepare for Sunday’s big game against the 3-1 Colts in Indianapolis, however, Sherman is showing there’s even more to his game than he displayed last season. And the perfect example was his 58-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans on Sunday that tied the score and gave the Seahawks an opportunity to win the game in overtime.

VOTE RICHARD SHERMAN AS THE NEVER SAY NEVER MOMENT OF THE WEEK

Sherman has six interceptions in his past eight regular-season games, but none was better – or bigger – than the Matt Schaub pass he pilfered that was intended for tight end Owen Daniels.

“I think it’s up there,” Sherman said when asked where that pick ranked among the 14 interceptions he has made since stepping into the starting lineup midway through the 2011 season as an injury replacement for an injury replacement.

“Just because of where it was at the point of the game. It was a play our team needed, and how it all came together – three minutes left in the game and it was a play that helped win the game. It’s one of those plays that don’t happen too often for a defensive player. It’s something you always dream about – grabbing it and helping your team win; game on the line and you’re making a big play.”

Suddenly, Reliant Stadium was Sherman’s backyard when he was a kid growing up in Compton, Calif.

“I was in the backyard again,” he said with a laugh. “Just grab it and run.”

While he often finds himself on an island in coverage, the Stanford-educated Sherman realizes no player is an island. He reaps the benefits of the pass rush and what the other defensive backs are doing, and they in turn can take advantage of the opportunities Sherman creates with his physical coverage skills and athletic prowess.

“It’s a testament to the whole defense,” Sherman said as he continued to dissect his pick-six. “Earl (Thomas, the All-Pro free safety who made it look the Seahawks were in Cover 3) did a great job of disguising. Kam (Chancellor, the Pro Bowl-caliber strong safety who blitzed on the play) did a great job of disguising.

“Without those guys doing what they did, I don’t think he throws the ball. So because those guys did a great job, I was the one who was able to capitalize and the guy who made the play.”

Perhaps even more impressive are the plays Sherman has not allowed opposing receivers to make this season. With Anquan Boldin coming off a 13-catch, 208-yard performance in the San Francisco 49ers’ season opener, and fellow bigger-than-life corner Brandon Browner out with a hamstring injury, Sherman covered Boldin roughly 75 percent of the time when the teams met in the Seahawks’ home opener. Boldin had one catch for 7 yards, and that came with the Seahawks in zone coverage and Sherman on the opposite side of the field. In other games, the QB has looked Sherman’s way, only to go the other way.

It’s gotten to the point where Sherman allowing a reception is a shock to the system.

Coach Pete Carroll and his defensive staff examined every ball thrown in Sherman’s direction last season and came away duly impressed.

“After a while it was just repetitious that he’s all over every throw, whether they catch them or not,” Carroll said. “He’s got a tremendous focus ability that he can stay in it and not give up plays and give away easy catches. It’s why he is a real constant factor. He’s for real.”

And the reasons Sherman is for real are real, too.

“Richard has a lot of things working for him,” Carroll said. “He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s got the speed that he needs to play the position. He has tremendous hand-eye skills catching the football. He’s terrific playing the football. But there are a lot of guys who have that. He has tremendous savvy, as well. He studies well. He’s really smart. The game makes sense to him. He can learn as the game’s going on from things that are happening. He can take advantage of all that stuff. And he’s tough, too. He’s a tough guy.

“So you put all that together, it makes him really a complete package. He really demonstrates it consistently. I think he’s played terrific football.” 

Just the latest indications that Sherman’s game is progressing – maturing, if you will – in his fourth season.

“I think I have progressed a little bit,” Sherman said. “There’s always room for growth, there’s always room to improve. When you’ve got the guys we’ve got in our (meeting) room, you always feel like you need to improve. Like you’ve got to be up there with them. You’ve got to keep up with Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, B.B. (Browner).

“You’ve got to keep living up to the standard. You’ve to keep raising the bar on your game, because they are. So you’ve got to keep jumping with them. That’s what continues to push us. I don’t think we’ll ever feel satisfied with where we are or our progress, because the price is always increasing.”

But Sherman does concede that there’s more to his game this season – mentally as well as physical.

“The game has slowed down a lot since my rookie year,” said Sherman, who was a steal of a fifth-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft – the 154th selection overall. “It’s slowed down because you’ve got great players around you communicating well, pointing things out for you that you might not otherwise see. When your teammates are doing that, it makes the game easier for you.

“When you’re all on the same page, it allows you to play fast.”

And there’s more to come. Just ask Andrew Luck. The Colts’ quarterback played with Sherman at Stanford, where Sherman began his career as a wide receiver before finishing it as a cornerback.

“I remember Richard being, obviously, a vociferous guy. Loud. Great football player,” Luck said Wednesday during a conference-call interview. “I always thought he was a great teammate in the locker room. When he was still on offense, I was always nervous as a freshman and you have to throw the ball to Richard Sherman because he was so fast. He could run like the wind. You didn’t want him to outrun your arm and make you look like a bad quarterback.

“And going to defense and how quickly he assimilated was, I thought, very impressive. I always knew he was a great athlete. Once he made that switch, he handled the switch very well. And I think we all knew that with time he would just keep getting better and better. He’s got such a high football acumen or IQ; I think playing offense has helped him in the whole transition. 

“I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet.”

Now that is saying something.

Game Rewind: Seattle Seahawks