BY Steve Rudman 06:30AM 11/29/2014

Sherman climbs list of Super Bowl-era greats

Seattle CB Richard Sherman’s celebrity usually gets more attention than his athleticism, but he has become one of the most accomplished pick artists of the Super Bowl era.

Richard Sherman picked off two Colin Kaepernick passes in Seattle’s 19-3 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Thanksgiving. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Via amusing rants, TV commercials, mock press conferences and loquacious boasting, Richard Sherman makes such a spectacle of himself that his turbo tongue – colleague Art Thiel once predicted that he’s slated to die in mid-sentence – often trumps his athleticism. Such was the case Thursday night when his preening got him more face time from the NBC cameras than his two interceptions, both of which factored heavily in the Seahawks’ 19-3 victory over San Francisco.

The first helped set up Seattle’s only touchdown and the second made it impossible for the 49ers to mount any sort of comeback. Not that Colin Kaepernick was up to such a feat, anyway. Thanks mainly to Sherman, Kaepernick played the worst game of his career, and henceforth will see Sherman in his nightmares.

Sherman’s picks were his second and third this season and the 22nd and 23rd of his four-year career. No defensive back has more since Sherman entered the NFL as a fifth-round draft choice out of Stanford in 2011 and, in fact, no DB is close. Sherman’s 23 are eight more than Chicago’s Tim Jennings (15) and nine clear of Arizona’s Patrick Peterson (14).

Sherman is also the first player in three decades — coinciding with the early Reagan Administration — to rack up that many interceptions in his first four seasons. The last two players with at least 23 picks in their first four years played simultaneously from 1981 to 1984, Everson Walls with the Dallas Cowboys (25) and safety Kenny Easley with the Seahawks (24).

Going back further, to 1966, the start of the Super Bowl era, only four players had more interceptions in their first four seasons than Sherman. Keeping in mind that Sherman’s fourth still has four games left in it, these players had the most picks in the first four seasons of a career:

Years Player Team Gms INTs Skinny
1967-70 Lem Barney Lions 54 32 Hall of Fame 1992
1977-80 Lester Hayes Raiders 62 25 5 INTs vs. Seattle
1981-84 Everson Walls Cowboys 57 25 11 INTs as rookie
1981-84 Kenny Easley Seahawks 54 24 Def. Player of Year 1984
2011-14 Richard Sherman Seahawks 60 23 5th-round pick in 2011
1978-81 John Harris Seahawks 62 22 7th-round pick in 1978
1976-79 Mike Haynes Patriots 60 22 Hall of Fame 1997
1994-97 Keith Lyle Rams 64 22 17 INTs 1996-97
1988-91 Eric McMillan Jets 61 22 Returned 5 picks for TDs
2002-05 Ed Reed Ravens 58 22 Consensus future HOFer

Note that, in addition to two Hall of Famers (Lem Barney and Mike Haynes), three Seahawks occupy the list. Easley, a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro, probably would have made the Hall of Fame if his career (1981-87) hadn’t been derailed by injury.

Easley was this good: During the 1984 Pro Bowl, Easley, normally a strong safety, was asked if he would switch to cornerback in the second quarter. Although he’d never played the position, none of the three NFC receivers he covered, James Lofton, Art Monk and Roy Green, caught a pass.

“That guy was a stud,” Raiders TE Todd Christiansen told reporters after the game.

Harris is about as obscure as an ex-Seahawk can get even though he played eight years in Seattle after the club drafted him 173rd overall in 1978 out of Arizona State. A safety, he never made a Pro Bowl, not even in 1981 when he led the AFC with 10 interceptions. When Harris left the Seahawks in 1986 to finish his career in Minnesota, he had 41 interceptions, still No. 3 in team history.

Toughest stretch

By defeating Arizona (9-2) and San Francisco (7-5) in a five-day span, the Seahawks have temporarily taken over the No. 5 seed in the NFC (two weeks ago, they would not have made the playoffs if the postseason had started then). Seattle finishes the season against teams with a combined record of 29-17, a .630 winning percentage.

That’s not only the highest among the four teams – also Lions, Cowboys and 49ers – competing for the two wild card spots, it’s the highest among the six teams that currently own playoff seeds:

Team Seed Opponents / Records Rec. Pct.
Sea 5 Phil (9-3), SF (7-5), AZ (9-2), StL (4-7) 29-17 .630
Atl 4 AZ (9-2), GB (8-4), Pitt (7-4), NO (4-7), Car (3-7) 31-24 .563
AZ 1 Atl (4-7), KC (7-4), StL (4-7), Sea (8-4), SF (7-5) 30-27 .526
GB 3 NE (9-2), Atl (4-7), Buf (6-5), TB (2-9), Det (6-4) 29-27 .518
Phil 2 Sea (8-4), Dal (8-4), Wash (3-8), NYG (3-8) 22-24 .478
Det 6 TB (2-9), Min (4-7), Chic (5-7), GB (8-4) 19-27 .413

Flag fest

Pete Carroll made several pointed remarks Thursday night about the disparity in penalties, 14 called against the Seahawks, only three against the 49ers, and used the phrase “a widening cavern” to describe the number of flags his team sustains vs. other clubs.

The Seahawks have been hit with 102 penalties to 51 for their opponents, easily the largest disparity in the league. They are on pace for 136, which would top their league-leading 128 last year.

“You’ve got to be first in something, I guess, so that’s what it is,” mused Carroll. “The only thing I wish is they called some penalties on the other guys. We’ve got our own problems, but I wish they called some on the other guys. The cavern grows wider.”

Since Carroll has been running the Seahawks, his teams have been hit with 579 penalties to 438 for their opponents, a difference of +141. That’s by far the largest gap in the league (Oakland 101). As the result of those flags, the Seahawks have had 4,785 yards  — practically Marshawn Lynch’s entire career — marched off against them to 3,813 for their opponents. The difference of 972 yards easily eclipses No. 2 Detroit at 727. Largest disparity in penalties since 2010:

Team Own Pen Opp. Pen Diff. Yards Discrepancy
Seahawks 579 438 +141 Seahawks 4785, foes 3813: +972
Raiders 610 507 +101 Raiders 5074, foes 4430: +644
Lions 564 485 +99 Lions 4681, foes 3954: +727
Cowboys 514 435 +79 Cowboys 3947, foes 3448: +499
Buccaneers 534 458 +76 Buccaneers 4512, foes 3985: +527
Titans 519 461 +58 Titans 4460, foes 3877: +583
Rams 550 502 +48 Rams 4554, foes 4225: +329

While the gap between Seattle the rest of the league is substantial, the Seahawks don’t do a lot to help their own cause. They lead the NFL with 47 pre-snap penalties (Tampa Bay 34), and inside that number you find the Seahawks rank first in false starts (20), defensive offsides (9) and neutral-zone infractions (7), errors that needlessly subvert drives.

The Seahawks have to overcome their own selves as often as they have to overcome their opponents.

19-3 twice

The Seahawks have won their last two games, at the expense of Arizona and San Francisco, by identical 19-3 scores. The only other time that the Seahawks won back-to-back games by identical scores: Nov. 25 and Dec. 2, 1990, when they defeated San Diego and Houston 13-10.

 


YourThoughts

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    Having Watched Kenny easily play this is an outstanding statistic Steve is bantering about.Sherman has 23 interceptions in his 1st four seasons. Easily had 24 so Rich has a chance to tie or surpass with 5 games remaining.
    Kenny Easily was the best defensive athlete i have ever watched. It just shows what a gem we have patrolling the secondary.

  • http://rip-ragged.com/dross Raymond Meyers

    I love Richard Sherman. He talks, but there’s nothing the haters can say to refute his words. I think it might have been Dizzy Dean who said, “It ain’t braggin’ if you really done it.”

  • jafabian

    The Harris/Easley duo at safety were impressive in their day. Harris should have been at least named to the Pro Bowl once during his time as a Seahawk, maybe even All Pro. (that KC and Oakland secondary stood in his way) It’s amazing that Easley got so many INT’s at the SS position. I’ve never thought it was an accident that the Broncos knocked him out of a game when he was returning a punt after he signaled fair catch. That’s the only way they could beat him.

    At the rate he’s going, Sherman is going to be right there with Rod Woodson and Willie Brown. He has the skills, abilities and knowledge that makes him the best in the game for his position. My only real concern is that when he plays Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Colin Kapernick he’s All-World. But against Alex Smith, Shaun Hill and Kirk Cousins he can sometimes lose focus at inopportune times. Still one of my favorite players who’s going to get better. And that’s exciting.

  • Matt712

    Very few corners can blanket, or even track a receiver while keeping an eye on the QB. Sherman is the best in the game at it, but he doesn’t stop there: He also disrupts the receiver’s route better than anyone, which is the biggest reason QBs dont throw his direction. He’s either got him covered or he’s thrown him off his route, so even when he gets looks, a smart QB usually checks down. Half of the receptions on Sherm are either broken routes where the receiver comes back to the QB to catch it, or it’s a designed dink & dunk slant or out route, and he’s just about got those figured out too. Look for a pick-six soon…. If he gets a chance. I don’t know if anyone’s gonna throw to him anymore this season. Quinn’s gonna have to move him around.