BY Art Thiel 08:44PM 12/02/2018

Thiel: The awkwardness of beating old friends

Richard Sherman is a friend, mentor and idol to many Seahawks, so while the 43-16 beatdown of the 49ers was a delight, the reunion was a little awkward.

Richard Sherman and Bobby Wagner talked some good-natured trash post-game. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Norrthwest

Earlier in the week, Richard Sherman described the Seahawks as a “middle of the road” team. Which, on the Sherman Scale of Agitation, is mild. By Sunday afternoon, his 49ers were road kill. That was not mild. It was almost pitiful.

Truth be known, as much as the 43-16 triumph (box) over 2-10 San Francisco upgraded the Seahawks’ playoff bona fides, the degree of beatdown was, for most players, awkward.

To many, Sherman remains a friend, mentor and idol. Right or wrong, the coldness of his Seattle departure shook them all. In taking the first offer he received he free agency in part to haunt his old team twice a year, Sherman had a huge pay cut, rehabbed his torn Achilles tendon intensely, then came to a team that has been ravaged by injury and so embarrassed by a valuable player’s conduct that the club fired LB Reuben Foster in mid-season.

Sherman played the entire game Sunday with a battered unit and didn’t record a single stat. Sure, the Seahawks’ playcalling stayed away from him, but his one primary chance for a tackle was blown when his good friend, WR Doug Baldwin, caught a short pass over the middle and turned it into a big gain when Sherman failed to wrap him up.

He was also in coverage in the fourth quarter when WR Jaron Brown dove in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass to bump the lead to 34-10. Sherman never was close.

Afterward, Seahawks players, coaches and staff sought him out in the field for handshakes and hugs. Bobby Wagner, who blew past him on the sidelines as the linebacker was making the longest scrimmage play in franchise history, a 98-yard interception return, indulged in some good-natured trash talk.

“He was telling me I was slow,” Wagner said, grinning. “I was telling him if I’m slow, then what does that say about his team?”

Moments later Baldwin found Sherman. The friends, together at Stanford and then for six years in Seattle sat down on the field and exchanged jerseys, surrounded by cameras.

“We haven’t seen each other for a very long time,” Baldwin said.  “This is the first year I’ve been without him for over 10 years. It was emotional.”

Baldwin even devised what he called a “tribute to my boy” — a first-quarter TD celebration that mimicked Sherman’s legendary tipped pass in the 2014 NFC Championship against the 49ers that sent the Seahawks to the Super Bowl.

But to some onlookers who don’t share Baldwin’s affection for Sherman, it seemed a little like mockery, especially since it happened on the same spot in the end zone. Even Baldwin acknowledged the mixed message.

“I know it’s kinda weird — we’re scoring, he’s on the other team, we’re doing a tribute — but that was in our hearts,” he said.

Told you it was awkward.

“I didn’t even see it,” Sherman said. “I don’t think about it, honestly.”

Two Seahawks figures that have been targets of Sherman’s dismay described their pre-game encounters.

“I saw him pre-game,” said Wilson. “Just said, ‘What’s up?’ real fast. That was it. I think we were both focused on getting ready.”

Said Carroll: “We talked in pre-game. He was good. We just said hey. It was exactly the way you hope it would be.”

Certainly, it was better than throwing hands. Carroll let his team do the punching.

Mildly chastised during the week by Sherman for having once thrown five interceptions in a game, Wilson lit up the 49ers secondary with four touchdown passes, and nearly had a fifth. Wilson had a freakish line — 11 for 17 for 185 yards, no turnovers and a QB rating of 140.2, including three touchdowns in just six first-half pass attempts.

“He played well,” Sherman said, then slid in a little dig: “I think he threw for 160, 170 yards, so  . . . their running game is really effective, and they let him get to his spots and kept the game plan simple.”

Now you may regard all of this as soap-opera pettiness. Partly true. But there’s no getting around the whimsy of the schedule that has the Seahawks and 49ers playing in San Francisco in two weeks. The wounds from this game still will be fresh.

By then the Seahawks will have played Minnesota, their guests Monday night for a match of large playoff importance. If the 7-5 Seahawks, who advanced to fifth place in the NFC playoff standings following a 24-10 loss by the Vikings (6-5-1) at New England Sunday, beat Minnesota, they will be in charge of their wild-card fate.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” Carroll said of the current standings. “We haven’t done anything.”

Not quite true, but good coach-speak. The Seahawks have done a little something. They have refuted a charge by Sherman in the off-season that “the Seahawks have lost their way.”

Much remains to proven — and they may have to prove it without RG D.J. Fluker, who came out in the fourth quarter with a hamstring pull of unknown severity — but the Seahawks seem to have achieved the offensive balance so long sought. Many times when defenses overload to stop the run, the Seahawks have an answer. The 43 points were a season high, with an increasing percentage of explosive plays.

The defense missed numerous tackles Sunday, but any time they have Wagner the whirlwind, all stops are possible.

He had 11 tackles, two for loss, two defensed passes and a fumble forced and recovered. Plus the first pick-six of his career.

Said Carroll: “He’s playing as good as you can play the game.”

With four minutes left, Wagner made a leaping grab of hard throw from 49ers QB and third-stringer Nick Mullens to thwart a touchdown, then had to out-run the quarterback along the sidelines at midfield.

“I was just trying to make sure the quarterback didn’t catch me,” Wagner said, “because if he did, everyone was going to give me a little crap.

“It was extra nice to be running along the 49ers sideline. I tried to look at Sherm, but I didn’t see him.”

He’ll be able spot him again in two weeks. After the beatdown Sunday, the look best not be heavy-lidded.

Longtime friends Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin had time to get caught up. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest


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YourThoughts

  • Ron

    Always enjoy beating the Niners regardless how routine it’s become. Wins against the Packers and Panthers have lost any luster they may have had, now that we can see today’s results for them.

    • marmoto

      In an alternate universe where the Packers or Panthers beat us, their intact spirits may have led to different results yesterday. Both teams are spiraling down in spite of good talent, in part due to painful losses to the Hawks.

      • art thiel

        Margins between most NFL teams most of the time are small, and records can be inflated by when you catch teams on a downswing.

    • art thiel

      The NFC beyond the Rams and Saints is a mash of teams with large flaws. The Seahawks youngsters on defense still haven’t quite grown into their jobs.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art! Sure we miss Sherman. Great to see him, and I can’t imagine anyone not pumped up to play against him. It’s hard not to let his subtle digs on Russ make me angry though. One day he will grow up. Meanwhile, Russell Wilson probably was more mature at ten. Russell is such a blessing. If it came down to choosing between them, it’s Russell Willson all the way – always has been.
    I’m so proud of this team. Way to persevere and get the dominant win! BIG congrats to Bobby. Hard to believe it’s his first pick-six. He is so deserving.
    Baldwin is prone to awkward – cite his celebration today and the toilet bowl celebration in the SB. Love the guy but sometimes have to take him with a grain of salt. I guess he’s the dork we can’t live without.

    • art thiel

      Sherman’s unyielding ego wears people out, even Baldwin. Doesn’t mean he’s not a good man and friend and a great player, but all of us do things that irritate others.

  • Husky73

    Welcome home….Dante Pettis. 129 yards and 2 touchdowns.

    • art thiel

      Did you see his stiff-arm of Shaq Griffin on his first TD? Beast-like.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    Not sure if anyone else noticed , but Poona Ford was playing like a man possessed on that first defensive series after they win the toss . Great UDFA pick up . It was the Tyler Lockett show all day today ; they couldn’t stop him . Nice to see the offense start up before halftime for a change .

    The defense has to stop missing so many tackles – that’s gonna bite them in the ass if they keep it up . Tre Flowers did not have his best day . You let an undrafted rookie QB throw for over 400 yds on you ; second week in a row the D gave up huge chunks of yardage . But you can’t come away from this one feeling anything but confident .

    Go beat the Vikings next Monday – go to the playoffs . It really just boils down to that . Considering the Mariners had a 9 game lead for the 2nd wild card in July and still pulled the Charlie Brown face plant , I suppose anything’s possible . But you sure gotta feel good about uttering the P-word at this point .

    • art thiel

      Ford did well in his first NFL start. Remarkable find.

      The rest of the defense had some big-time sloppy tackling. It didn’t threaten the outcome, but shows a vulnerability that was cured only by turnovers. Can’t rely on that.

  • Diamond Mask

    All hail Bobby Wagner. If KJ gets right it’ll be even better. So let’s see what Minnesota has got. They gave it there all against the Pats today and came up short. What kind of desperation and skill will we see next week? I’m guessing everything that the Vikings have got left. For them the NFC North championship is still a reality. Seahawks. Gird. Loins. etc.

    • art thiel

      Wagner might have had the best individual game of his career. Gotta be first-team All-Pro.

  • jafabian

    This game reminded me of the game back in 1987 when the NFL players were on strike and five crossed the picket line including Steve Largent and backup QB Jeff Kemp who conducted a clinic on passing against the Lions. Russell Wilson only had to complete 11 passes to achieve 4 TD’s and a 140 QBR. Richard Sherman ( who I noticed has a captain’s patch on his jersey. IIRC he was never a captain as a Seahawk) might claim that the Seahawks barely threw in his direction but everyone else was so wide open even Stevie Wonder could see the opportunities presented to Wilson. But it was B-Swag who was MVP of this game. All in all a good practice game for the upcoming match against the Vikings.

    Hey Art, was Doug talking to you when he said “Art you need to learn to ask better questions.” I’m assuming it was jokingly.

    • art thiel

      He mis-heard my question, then answered upon re-ask.

      Regarding the easy win: Careful. Seahawks go to SF in two weeks.

      • jafabian

        Oh yah. I know. But it’s always come across to me that the 49ers still aren’t comfortable in their new home. I’m thinking they win thanks to a SeaBass FG.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Good win, a confidence builder. But the road begins to roughen. Here come the Vikes, who still have not beaten a team with a winning record. But they will be a test for the Hawk defense and for the offense. Seattle has beaten a team with a winning record, the Cowboys in week 3. It’s also true that none of the five teams that have beaten them have a losing record. It’s still too early to tell whether they will the get the Boys or the Bears in the playoffs, playing indoors in Dallas or outside in Chicago. But that game will be the biggest challenge this year, getting a playoff win on the road, the team’s biggest bugaboo.

    • art thiel

      Hold on, Kevin. Lots of ball yet to be played. It’s fun to look ahead, but don’t put it on the record. :)

      • Kevin Lynch

        There is one chance in twenty the Hawks don’t make the playoffs. Lose to Vikes, Minnesota winning three of four to finish 9-6-1 and Philly wins out with stiff competition to go 10-6. About a 95% chance in my estimation that Seattle will see the post season. But then you come up against the Hawks playoff record on the road – 3 and 11 lifetime.

        • Kevin Lynch

          Oh, and I forgot to mention that Seattle has to lose to Kansas City as well, at home and with the Chiefs lacking Hunt.

  • DJ

    Yep!

  • antirepug3

    Well, maybe Sherman was reading the NFL Stats where Seahawks are 19th on offense and 20th on defense…not quite middle of the road…but he gave them a pass anyway.