This past Sunday, New England led the Seahawks 23-10 in the 4th quarter when Tom Brady locked eyes with dreadlocked Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman. “He looked at me like, ‘talk to me after the game,’” Sherman later said. “It’s just one of these things where I think Newton’s third law of motion applies. Every action has an equal or greater reaction.”
The Seahawks scored two late touchdowns to squeeze by the Patriots 24-23 for one of the most dramatic regular season victories in team history. Sherman took care not to do Isaac Newton right after the game.
“Me and Earl walked up to him and said, ‘We’re greater than you. We’re better than you. You’re just a man — we’re a team.’” An hour later, he tweeted the above picture, setting off an instant firestorm among the New England faithful. “Patriots fans mad lol…” said Sherman in his next tweet. “Talking bout Super Bowl rings…. What have u done lately? Oh ur 3-3 lol”
That is not a rational statement. One win does not outweigh 3 Super Bowl rings and 5 Super Bowl appearances in the Brady-Belichick era. Sherman doesn’t sound confident – he sounds arrogant.
And yet, I am delighted. Sherman has some attitude. It is significant here that he plays defense and not offense. Unlike on offense, everyone on defense plays with the singular goal of stopping the ball; to play defense, you need that strong carnal instinct. To me, this incident with Sherman shows that he possesses the type of competitive edge that’s essential to success on the defensive side of the football. If he is so happy with the Seahawks win that he talks trash to Brady after the game, then flaunts his trash-talking on Twitter, then backs up his flaunting – he is a real competitor.
Last year the Seahawks secondary anointed itself the Legion of Boom: Sherman, cornerback Brandon Browner, free safety Earl Thomas, and strong safety Kam Chancellor. Sherman was the only member of the Legion of Boom not to receive an invitation to the 2012 Pro Bowl. Defensive backs are usually small and swift, like 5’11” Darrelle Revis. The Legion of Boom is huge. Chancellor is 6’3”/230, Sherman is 6’3”/200, and Browner is 6’4”/220. Sherman and Browner use their size best on bump-and-run and their length best to deflect balls. They aren’t the quickest, but they have a valuable counterweight in Earl Thomas, who at 5’10” uses his short legs to accelerate quickly from his position in center field; he has as much range as any safety in the league. So while these cornerbacks play an unorthodox style, their secondary is consonant as a whole. Shit is working. Right now the Seahawks rank 5th in total defense and 3rds in scoring defense.
The Seahawks gave up 200 more yards to the Patriots than they had to any team all season. The Pats put together back to back 80-yard touchdown drives in the 1st half. But from then on, they scored only 9 points on 5 trips to the red zone. Sherman and Thomas each had a 2nd half interceptions, and the defense forced back-to-back punts with their offense down 13 points in the 4th quarter. They held Tom Brady to his lowest rating of the season.
Last night, the Seahawks lost 13-6 to the 49ers. They are 4-3. But still, this is the most exciting Seahawks season since they went 13-3 en route to the Super Bowl in 2005. Something feels different. New Nike uniforms help relieve the unsavory stank of the last 4 years (combined 23-41). The defense is young – rookie Bruce Irvin is on pace for double-digit sacks, rookie Bobby Wagner starts at middle linebacker. Starting OLB K.J. Wright is 23; Thomas is 23; Sherman is 24; Chancellor is 24; Browner is 28, but in only his second year in the league after a stint in the CFL. QB Russell Wilson is 23. Marshawn Lynch leads the league in yards after contact. It’s a youth movement…something great is in the works.
Shannon Sharpe once said,”Ray Lewis is the type of guy, if he were in a fight with a bear I wouldn’t help him, I’d pour honey on him because he likes to fight. That’s the type of guy Ray Lewis is.” Ray Lewis and Ed Reed applied the mischievous traditions they learned as Miami Hurricanes to the Baltimore Ravens, making it the most fearsome defense in the NFL for over a decade. They are animals, with no regard for human life. The Ravens D has been the Muhammad Ali of the league. But now Lewis is out for the year. The Seahawks D feels like the new Ravens. Fearless. Dickish. Brotherhood.
At the very least, they are giving the city of Seattle a sports team with a real edge, which was last seen in the Gary Payton/Shawn Kemp era in the mid-90s (Payton is still an active trash-talker on Twitter). The Mariners can’t score for shit, nor will they ever in the cavernous Safeco Field. The Sonics are gone. The Sounders are good, but the MLS is lame. It’s fun to rally around athletes who want nothing in life more than to win. If they talk excessive shit as a symptom, and if they can back up that sass, it’s even more fun. After the Tom Brady incident, Richard Sherman said, “People, they don’t look at the film. They don’t analyze anything. That’s why these analysts and commentators need to shut their mouth.” Amazing. I’d like to thank Sherman, the Legion of Boom, and the 2012 Seattle Seahawks for restoring my faith in humanity.