The San Francisco 49ers travel to face the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, and it represents a big homecoming for the 49ers defense. Cornerback Richard Sherman, linebacker Malcolm Smith, and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh are all headed back to the place they called home during some memorable seasons.
This is not the first time Saleh will be coaching against the Seahawks, but this is the first time he will be doing it with both Smith and Sherman playing for him. Last year, Smith was on IR before the 49ers could face the Seahawks, and Sherman joined the team this offseason. It makes this all the more fitting given the relationship they had previously with the 49ers.
On January 19, 2014, the Seahawks hosted the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. They were the two best teams in the league, and it felt like the de facto Super Bowl. It was a wild affair, with the 49ers taking an early lead, the Seahawks coming back to take the lead, and the game ending on a heart-breaking interception.
We won’t show the video, but we all remember Colin Kaepernick targeting Michael Crabtree in the end zone late in the game. It was a rare target against Richard Sherman in that game, and he tipped the pass into the arms of Malcolm Smith.
On Thursday, Saleh was asked about his memories of Sherman in Seattle. He pointed to that play, offering a “Sorry Niner fans” that I’m sure will go over well. Later, he was asked more about that play, with a reporter asked him to “peel back the onion” on the play — breaking down what he saw and what his emotions were.
“You know, it was the first time they tried Sherm all game and the most underrated part of that entire thing, because Sherm did his deal, was the fact that Malcolm was running to the football the way he was because he was supposed to be five yards from the line of scrimmage not doing anything. He hustled to the ball and when it happened and he caught it, I blacked out for a little bit. I think coach [Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan] Quinn punched me in the face by accident. So, there were a lot of things going on in the booth, but no it was a pretty cool moment.”
The Seahawks went on to roll the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, and 49ers fans were left devastated in defeat. It will never get easy, but it seemed inevitable we would have to hear about this week. Hopefully we see Sherman and/or Smith putting together a strong effort this weekend to leave Seahawks fans at least a little bit salty.