Sherman savors first NFL sack

john.mcgrath@thenewstribune.comNovember 12, 2012 

As a Seattle Seahawks cornerback likely destined for the Pro Bowl, Richard Sherman is more valuable for his ability to pick off quarterbacks than to crash and crush them.

But Sherman on Sunday got a rare opportunity to hunt down the passer, and he can’t deny his reaction.

The rush was a rush.

Sherman’s self-called blitz of the New York Jets’ Mark Sanchez did more than produce a sack and force a fumble the Seahawks recovered at their 32-yard line. It also revealed Sherman’s yearning to return in his next life as a defensive end with the sort of nickname physical players tend to command.

Tank Sherman?

At 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, Sherman is huge for a cover corner, but he’s a little on the light side for somebody positioned to torment quarterbacks. No matter. For one play during the Seahawks’ 28-7 thumping of the Jets at CenturyLink Field, Richard Sherman was reminiscent of Richard Dent.

Sherman didn’t confine his busy day to the sack. He also cut in front of tight end Dustin Keller, at the Seattle goal line, to make a leaping grab of a pass Sanchez regretted throwing as soon as the ball left his fingers.

Interceptions, of course, are nothing novel for Sherman, who leads the team with four. But the sack?

“My first ever,” he said. “So I think the sack might have been the better play. It felt good. I never thought I was going to get one because the coaches never send me on blitzes. They just make me cover.

“But that was a great play.”

What made the Stanford graduate especially proud is that the fourth-quarter play was a consequence of some quick thinking – his.

Facing a first-and-10 on an infrequent foray into Seattle territory, the Jets had brought in 6-5, 308-pound offensive tackle Jason Smith as a third tight end. Sherman realized the big fella’s chance at being used as a pass target was about as slim as Jets coach Rex Ryan becoming the next director of the CIA.

“So instead of covering,” Sherman said, “I blitzed, and nobody was there to pick me up. We haven’t seen that look since maybe the first day of camp. It’s one of those looks you rarely get because there is rarely a time you’re going to have a tackle lined up as a tight end who you know for sure is going to stay in and block.

“It just happened to be the luck of the draw.”

Perhaps, but as Branch Rickey used to say, luck is the residue of design. Sherman counted the Jets’ tight ends, put two and one together, and came up with blitz.

“It was a pretty heady play by me,” Sherman continued. “I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but that’s what it is.”

After defensive end Jason Jones pounced on the dislodged ball, the visitors were able to run four more plays, one of which was a punt. Between Sanchez and alternate quarterback Tim Tebow, the moribund Jets “attack” was contained to 11 first downs and 185 net yards.

The statistic most reflective Seattle’s defensive domination was third-down conversions. After moving the chains twice on their first two tries, the Jets went 0-for-9 on third down and 0-for-1 on fourth down.

Oh, and there was another stat: zero points surrendered. If first-quarter sack victim Russell Wilson doesn’t fumble the ball into the hands of the Jets’ Muhammad Wilkerson, who returned it for a 21-yard touchdown, the Seahawks preside over their first shutout in more than three years.

“That’s a testament to the entire defense,” Sherman said. “The front seven played great. Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas were tackling their behinds off. Brandon Browner was batting balls down whenever they came his way. There weren’t a lot of tackles to be made because the line was getting on everything.”

Does Sherman regard the 28-7 victory as a shutout?

“You have to,” he said. “They didn’t score any points on us. That’s as much of a shutout as you can get.”

The brash cornerback – the guy who’ll say anything, at any time, to anybody – was talking there. But Seahawks coach Pete Carroll expects to soon hear from the pass rusher who surprised Sanchez.

“Richard,” said Carroll, “will be asking about third-down rushes, I’m sure.”

Hear him out, Pete. Let him make a case. The Seahawks have more than a few weapons on defense, but a Tank is a terrible thing to waste.

john.mcgrath@thenewstribune.com

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