Richard Sherman: Denver Dominant Receivers Can Be Corralled

Seahawks 1.27.14Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, whose fingertip save against the 49ers helped send Seattle to the Super Bowl for a showdown with Peyton Manning and the Broncos, appears on the regional cover of this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (1/27/14)—on newsstands NOW. Sherman, who led the NFL with eight interceptions during the regular season, deflected a pass intended for Niners wide receiver Michael Crabtree in the end zone during the closing minute of the NFC championship game, which caused the ball to bounce into the grasp of linebacker Malcolm Smith, sealing Seattle’s 23–17 win. In SI’s Super Bowl XLVIII preview, writers list the key storylines as the Broncos and Seahawks head to MetLife Stadium in 10 Things We Think We Think. NFL analyst Andy Benoit believes that Seattle’s D could corral Denver’s dominant receivers, writing, “The Seahawks led the league in every major pass-defending category because they perfected a hybrid scheme that features suffocating press-man corners on the outside. One of them, Sherman, speaks the truth when boasting that he’s the best in the NFL; the other, Byron Maxwell, is long, strong, athletic and alert—and he’s on track to join Sherman on the first tier. With corners who can own the perimeter, Seattle’s speedy, hard-hitting safeties and ’backers can play a more condensed zone inside.” (Page 48)

The Broncos led the NFL in total offense, passing, receiving and touchdowns scored. The Seahawks led the league in total defense, pass defense and interceptions. So what happens when the most prolific passing offense in history meets a secondary of superheroes? Writes Benoit, “It will be fascinating to see how the record-setting Broncos offense attacks this secondary. Manning’s system is rich in man-beater concepts: intertwined crossing patterns, receiver screens, (legal) pick plays and switch releases, in which receivers who are aligned close to one another essentially crisscross early in their routes, hoping to cross up their defenders. While no defense has truly stopped this attack yet, the Sea–hawks are equipped to do so. Sherman and Maxwell can take away Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker on the outside. When those receivers go inside, they’ll encounter zone defenders who are among the best in the league at recognizing route designs and picking up assignments. So instead of following these wideouts on crossing patterns and falling susceptible to picks, Sherman and Maxwell can just pass them off to the zone defenders (on plays that even get that far). Denver’s receivers will first have to break free from jams, and the offensive line will have to hold up against a dynamic Seahawks front four.” (Page 48)

So it’ll be the best cornerback in the league versus the best quarterback in the league. Despite Sherman’s penchant for picking off QBs like Manning, SI Senior writer Peter King likes Pot Roast: Broncos 27, Seahawks 24.

For Peter King’s early thoughts on Super Bowl XLVIII click here:


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