One of my friends jokingly said after the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Minnesota Vikings, “Sherm is upset the Niners won, isn’t he?” Richard Sherman played a great coverage game. He was targeted three times and allowed one reception for nine yards. Sherman also had an interception where it was perfect coverage on Adam Thielen, and he was rewarded with an interception.
It was textbook, which Sherman responded with “I like that,” mocking Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Sherman also can be heard saying “38”, which is his career interception total.
Sherman’s confidence, preparation, and knowledge have helped transform the 49ers’ culture. The players pick his brain, and Sherman is always there for whoever needs him to be. It’s his edge with the media that is making the headlines.
Here is Sherman on his critics:
“They just never want to give me credit in the playoffs, during the season. I’ve been doing [this at a high level for a long time]. That pick? It was man (coverage), for all the people who say I can only play zone. But you know what they’re going to do to me? They’re going to make an excuse for why I’m great. Well, it was Kirk Cousins. But when somebody else does it, they’re like, He’s the best corner. You know? ... Haters want to hate me and treat me like a villain. They want me to fail, so they don’t ever want me to get to where I’m supposed to get. It’s frustrating.”
Sherman has been riding the pretender/underdog wave for the majority of the season, and this feels like a motivational tactic for his teammates to stay sharp. Sherman knows that there could be a let down after blowing a team out and facing a team that you’ve already destroyed this season. This is his way of telling his teammates that they still have something to prove, and he’s just using himself as the point. That’s my read on this, anyway.
Sherman also gave props to defensive coordinator Robert Saleh:
“Saleh put on a great performance and deserves consideration. He’s called great games throughout the year. This was a masterpiece of him knowing his personnel, having his personnel, coming up with a fantastic plan, and us executing it. He deserves a ton of credit.”
There is no doubt about that. Saleh was terrific. We talked about the key to shutting down the Vikings was to get pressure without blitzing. The 49ers only blitzed Cousins six times. He was 4-6 for 65 yards and a touchdown. On non-blitzes, Cousins was 17-23 for 107 yards, an interception, six sacks, and averaged 4.7 yards per attempt. It was impressive execution all-around for the defense.
Finally, Fred Warner is happy to have the health back:
“Having those guys back gave us even more confidence than we already had. You could tell just by how everybody was moving throughout the game and the week. We went out there standing tall. We had all the confidence that we were going to get the job done. We talked about it during the bye that we wanted to be on the upward trend going into the playoffs. You kind of saw that today. We’re just getting started. We feel like we’re getting hot. It’s on to the next one.”