Richard Sherman is back to his shutdown CB form
Richard Sherman has not been his usual self this season. Heading into the game Sunday against the Cowboys, teams throwing at him this season had a passer rating of 100.3, or only slightly worse than when targeting teammate Cary Williams. He had allowed 66.7 percent of the balls thrown his way to be caught, and he was giving up 15.4 yards per reception. He had yet to intercept a pass and had notched just two passes defensed.
All of these were major anomalies in a career that has seen him notch stellar statistics as well as great play. He is still among the least targeted corners in the league, but he hasn’t matched the stats he has every other year of his career. Heading into this season the worst passer rating he has ever surrendered over a season was 57.3, as a rookie. The highest percentage of targets to be caught he has ever allowed was 50.9 percent, in 2013.
On Sunday, however, Sherman was back to his best, locking down Dez Bryant for much of the game, with an assist from the poor quarterback play of Matt Cassel. He earned the highest grade of any cornerback for the week.
Cassel threw Sherman’s way five times. He completed one of those passes for 15 yards. Sherman broke up the other four.
In what is rare for Sherman, he also spent the game moving around to follow Bryant when the defense dictated it. Sherman played most of his 61 snaps at his usual left cornerback spot, but also played on the right side 18 times, including for a great pass breakup down the sideline on a deep pass that really highlighted how good he can be with the ball in the air.
Bryant won the handfighting battle on release from the line and gained some separation, but unlike most corners who would desperately trying to regain the lost ground and recover, Sherman immediately turned instead to locate the football, getting himself in a better position to play it in the air and break the pass up.
As he usually is, Cassel was happy to provide an assist with an underthrown pass, but this is what separates Sherman from other corners when he is on his game. Most corners would have still had their heads turned to Bryant trying to make up ground and close the separation between the two, and as a result they would never have found the football and likely would have lost to Bryant at the catch point, even with the underthrown pass.
Sherman allowed just 20 percent of the passes thrown his way by the Cowboys to be caught, despite covering one of the game’s best receivers all day (albeit one who was in his first game back from injury). When Sherman was targeted by Matt Cassel he yielded a passer rating of just 39.6, or about the same as it would have been if he’d just not bothered and thrown the ball into the turf every time instead.
That’s about as lockdown as it gets from Sherman, who showed he is still the league’s best cornerback on his best days.