Sherman comes up big

Posted Nov 14, 2012

After intercepting a pass and forcing a fumble to end two series against the Jets on Sunday, second-year cornerback Richard Sherman was selected NFC Defensive Player of the Week on Wednesday.

For most of Sunday afternoon, the Seahawks’ defense was dominating. And on the rare occasions when it wasn’t, Richard Sherman was there to seal the deal.

On a day when the Seahawks kept the New York offense out of the end zone by limiting the Jets to 185 yards and a 2-of-11 showing on third downs – the yards allowed a season-low for Seattle’s No. 4-ranked defense and the third-down performance tying their season-best effort – Sherman slammed the door twice when the Jets came knocking.

In the second quarter, with the score tied 7-7, the Jets had driven from their 38-yard line to the Seahawks’ 1 – accounting for 61 of those 185 yards. A false-start penalty moved the ball back to the 6, and Sherman than removed the Jets from the doorstep of the end zone by intercepting Mark Sanchez’s pass at the 3.

In the fourth quarter, the Jets had a first down at the Seahawks’ 32 – on a series that began at their 20 and included 43 of those 185 yards. But Sherman blitzed and forced a fumble on the first sack of his career. Defensive tackle Jason Jones recovered and six plays later the Seahawks scored to make it 28-7 with eight minutes left in the game.

Sherman’s big-play day earned the second-year cornerback NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors, it was announced Wednesday.

“Boy, he had a great game,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said in the locker room at CenturyLink Field, shaking his head and smiling as he glanced at Sherman. “He was there all day for us, but when we really needed him, he really showed up.”

Other Seahawks defensive players have won the weekly NFC honor the past two seasons – “Leo” end Chris Clemons in Week 3 this season, as well as Week 11 last season; and since-departed middle linebacker David Hawthorne in Week 13 last season. But the last cornerback to do it was since-departed Josh Wilson in 2008 (Week 16).

The list of corners to win the award reads like a Who’s Who of the position in Seahawks history: Dave Brown (1984), Terry Taylor (1985), Shawn Springs (1999), Ken Lucas (2002 and 2004), Andre Dyson (2005), Marcus Trufant (2007) and Wilson.

Each of those corners entered the NFL as a first- or second-round draft choice – Brown, Taylor, Springs and Trufant in the first; Lucas, Dyson and Wilson in the second. Sherman was selected in the fifth round last year, after switching from wide receiver to cornerback during his senior season at Stanford.

So Sherman’s rise to his current status is quite a story, and his performance on Sunday was a cornerstone chapter.

“I thought Richard Sherman really stood out,” coach Pete Carroll said. “Sometimes you just see the interceptions that these guys make, but he played a great football game. Not just the pick and the sack that he had, but a bunch of other things he did, too.

“I was really fired up to see him play like that.”

Sherman now leads the team with four interceptions – to go with the four he had while starting the final 10 games last season. That’s eight picks in 20 games. Sherman also leads the team with 14 passes defensed – to go with the 17 he had last season. That’s 31 PDs in the past 20 games. Sherman is seventh on the team with 38 tackles – to go with the 53 he had last season. That’s 91 in the past 20 games.

To say that Sherman has become an impact player on a defense capable of impacting any game doesn’t do justice to the impression this guy is making. And remember, Sherman only found his way into the lineup at left cornerback last year after season-ending injuries to Trufant and Walter Thurmond.

Sherman’s response to the biggest day of his still-young NFL career was typical – rapid-fire words, sprinkled with smiles and punctuated by laughs.

“That’s a testament to the entire defense,” he said when asked about the unit pitching a shutout (the Jets’ touchdown came on a fumble return). “The front seven played great. We tried to tackle well in the backend. I think everybody played a great game.

“Kam (Chancellor, strong safety) and Earl (Thomas, free safety) were tackling their behinds off. B.B. (cornerback Brandon Browner) was batting the balls down whenever they came his way. And the line, there wasn’t a lot of tackles to be had because of (Brandon) Mebane and (Alan) Branch and Big Red (Bryant) and Clem (Chris Clemons). They were getting on everything.”

And the other cornerback also did OK. And the best play of Sherman’s big day?

“Well, that was my first sack ever,” he said. “So I think the sack might have been the better play. It felt good. I never thought I was ever going to get a sack. They never send me on a blitz. They only let me cover.”

Now, after collecting the player-of-the-week honor, Sherman’s cover is blown.