When Richard Sherman makes a play, the broadcasting and profanity-fueled flailing begins, sucking in the diligent sideline reporter seeking a quote snack. Sherman proclaims himself to be the best there is, was, and ever will be. And who knows, he might be right.
That’s the boisterous Sherman, and the polarizing Sherman. He’s wildly entertaining in a way the standard modern athlete often isn’t, and depending on your worldview, he can be either endlessly amusing or an irritating punk, and nothing in between.
But that’s also the Richard Sherman I don’t care about. I care about the guy who makes plays on balls most corners couldn’t even graze, and on one such play tonight, he sealed a Super bowl trip for the Seattle Seahawks.
Sherman was the ender of things in a few ways. His moment ended Colin Kaepernick’s moment, and the 49ers’ season.
— The Seattle Times (@seattletimes) January 20, 2014
On a play that started with 55 seconds left after the San Francisco 49ers had marched upfield quickly through six Kaepernick completions for 60 yards, that ball intended for Michael Crabtree in the back of the end zone nearly brought the opposite ending. A touchdown and the extra point that followed would have won the game for San Francisco, and right now they would be erecting heavily tattooed statues of Kaepernick around the Bay Area, with a hat firmly fastened backwards. But instead Sherman timed his jump perfectly, leaping to match Crabtree at the height of his while tipping the pass to Malcom Smith.
Then there was the theatrics that you either loved or hated, and Sherman nearly swallowing Erin Andrews. But all you really have to care about is this: the 23-17 score, and the Seahawks moving on to their second ever Super Bowl to face the Broncos in two weeks.
Richard Sherman, baby https://t.co/92aeMFmAk2
— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) January 20, 2014
Oh and if you think that tip was just some flukey stroke of luck, go ahead and skip to the 6:55 mark below…
This game was the slugging snot rocker we expected it to be, but by certain metrics of the boxscore, a Seahawks win is hard to compute. It’s possible, though difficult to win a game when the opposing quarterback runs for 130 yards. That’s what Kaepernick did, primarily in the first half with most of his yardage coming on a 58-yard run. At that moment already in just the second quarter Kaepernick had 101 rushing yards, and even more remarkably, his name could be mentioned in the same sentence as that of Barry Sanders.
Colin Kaepernick and Barry Sanders have each played in 6 career postseason games. Kaepernick has 100 more career playoff rush yards.
— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) January 20, 2014
Of course, when your defense is holding all non-Kaepernick 49ers runners to just 31 yards on 17 carries, winning was quite possible because clock killing wasn’t, even when San Fran held a 10-point third quarter lead. Yet still, had Sherman’s leap been half an inch off resulting in a very different ending for this game and a diffrent hero, we’d look back at an abundance of Seahawks opportunities that were there and plentiful, yet they went unfulfilled.
They had two red-zone trips result in only three points, most notably a pilgrimage to the Niners’ one-yard line in the fourth quarter that ended in both a bizarre twist of karma, and a loss that will extend far beyond this day. NaVorro Bowman tackled and stripped Jermaine Kearse at the goal-line, but his leg bent awkwardly. Bowman crumbled immediately but held onto the ball before losing it in the resulting pile. But since NFL rules were developed in caves, his possession couldn’t be reviewed, even though it was clear to all. On the following play Russell Wilson fumbled, with the gods above righting the wrong. Bowman couldn’t be saved, though, and the initial word is that he tore his ACL.
Doug Baldwin’s 69-yard kickoff return to San Francisco’s 33 yard-line was also turned into just three points. Meanwhile, Kaepernick was not only running, but throwing absolute laser beams while on one leg and jumping. This defies everything I thought I knew about human arm strength…
That was the good, accurate, and insanely athletic Kaepernick on this night as he chucked a 26-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin javelin stye. The good Kaepernick did that running, and up until his final pass he had executed a flawless two-minute drill. Although it was a touch short, that throw wasn’t even awful, as Sherman simply made a terrific play.
No, the bad Kaepernick surfaced when he made a poor decision and under threw a ball near the sideline that ended up in Kam Chancellor’s hands, and on another play held onto it for too long before being strip sacked by Michael Bennett. Throughout the regular season Kaepernick threw just eight interceptions on 416 attempts, so one every 52 heaves. Tonight he threw two on just 24 attempts, and he turned the ball over to end each of the 49ers’ final three possessions.
Kaepernick also had just one multiple-interception game. It was back in Week 2 when his opponent was these same Seahawks, and he threw three picks. Including the playoffs then Kaep chucked 11 interceptions, and six of them went to Seahawks defenders.
Worse, two went to Richard Sherman. In a game where both offenses had exactly 308 yards, he was the deciding factor along with Marshawn Lynch, whose 40-yard touchdown run was the longest given up by the 49ers this season (their previous long was a 30-yarder), and the longest in the Jim Harbaugh era.
And so it begins then. Two weeks of hype, of wondering, and of prop bets rooted in Gatorade colors. Eventually we’ll see a football game, and it will feature the league’s best defense against the league’s best offense, and Sherman against Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas.
Good job, NFL script writers.