RENTON — Marquee matchup of the NFL season so far is Sunday: Seahawks’ NFL-best defense against Falcons’ NFL-best offense. The show also includes a lounge act: Seattle CB Richard Sherman vs. Atlanta WR Julio Jones. Except nobody is saying it’s happening.
“Sometimes I find out in the middle of the game,” Sherman said Wednesday of his game-plan instructions from coaches. “Sometimes I find out on game day. Sometimes, we’re having trouble on the other side and they go, ‘Well, you go follow him from now on.’
“It is what it is. You figure it out and (are a) good enough player to get it done.”
Even Jones isn’t cooperating with hyping the fight. He was held out of the Falcons’ practice Wednesday at Husky Stadium — you read that right; the Falcons so miss Hurricane Matthew that they are staying the week to see Seattle’s worst storm of the year — with a sore knee.
But if Jones is healthy, which is likely, and the Seahawks coaches realize Jones is three yards shy of being the NFL receiving yards leader, also likely, then Sherman will be ordered to perch upon Jones’ face mask for much of the afternoon.
Increasingly, the Seahawks are releasing him from his usual left-side duties to travel with a premier receiver, such as in the most recent game against the Jets and their star WR Brandon Marshall.
Some Seahawks fans may be dismayed by the travel plan after Sherman gave up a touchdown and three other receptions for 89 yards to Marshall, who at 32 remains one of the game’s best receivers.
Overlooked was the fact that the Jets targeted him 12 times, and Sherman intercepted two. The Jets tried to force the offense to Marshall, and it worked for a half. Then it didn’t.
But the Falcons pose a different set of problems, because they have a quality running game and other good receivers who produce an NFL-best averages of 454.7 yards and 35 points a game, 60 yards more than runner-up Dallas (the Seahawks are 28th at 357.5). The Falcons had a season-best game Sunday when they won 23-16 in Denver, the first loss for the defending champion Broncos and their stellar defense.
On Oct. 2, Jones had the sixth 300-yard receiving game in NFL history during a 45-32 win over New Orleans. But the Falcons needed only two catches for 29 yards from him to beat the Broncos.
Said ESPN analyst Merril Hodge: “Atlanta is the most exciting offense in football. They do more flow and misdirection than anybody, and they have a ton of mismatches across the board. Julio Jones has one catch, they win. Then they have 300 yards and they win. That tells you how flexible they are.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was in no mood to spill secrets Wednesday about Sherman’s deployment, particularly with Dan Quinn, his former defensive coordinator, coaching the rivals. Since Quinn knows Sherman better than Sherman’s family knows Sherman, caginess is mandatory.
“We just take a bucket full of thoughts and decide what seems to fit best,” Carroll said. The Falcons may be content to use Jones as a decoy and put pressure on CB Deshawn Shead, or pound away on Sherman in pursuit of a mistake.
“It’s not just (Sherman),” Carroll said. “It has to do with the other guys. If the (opponent) is flipping (sides), that’s part of the variable also.
“We’re at a point where we can do whatever we need to do now.”
Whenever the matchup occurs, it will be between experienced athletes at their professional peaks. But when asked who had the tougher job, cornerback or wide receiver, Sherman left no doubt.
“Corner — because you never leave the field,” he said. “You don’t get to sub, you don’t get to rotate. If there’s two receivers out there, you’re out there. It’s not like you get to swap — this receiver went out so somebody else comes in. If they’re tired, they get to sub out and bring someone else in.
“That was one of the challenges when we played Denver in the Super Bowl. They’re rotating the receivers in and out, every three plays, and we’re out there. They get to get fresh, they get to take a breather. Sometimes the receivers never even go back to the huddle, they’ll just run out to the sideline. You turn around, you’re 60 yards down the field, (then) a new receiver is standing there. That’s something that some people don’t think about.”
If Jones is a full go Sunday, Sherman may be the first to suggest that traveling is over-rated.
Locker-room talk? “That’s a cop-out”
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s description last week of his degrading remarks about groping women as “locker-room talk” did not sit well with Sherman, adding to the chorus of condemnation around the sports world.
“I think it was a cop-out,” Sherman said. “He needed some way to divert the attention from himself. That’s not how most people talk in the locker room, and I think a lot of athletes would say the same.
“But it allows him to divert the conversation away from him, which was the focus.”
Monday, teammate Michael Bennett said he was “irate” over the remarks. WR Doug Baldwin said, “Have I heard things like that in the locker room? Not that aggressive. You’ve got to treat people right and treat women with respect.”
Ryan – Jones is a much bigger challenge than Fitzpatrick – Marshall.
That said, no way am I leaving the TV Sunday as this matchup is the best of the year. Sherman will show the league just how talented he is.
As to the Trump comment, no so much.
Atlanta has the best offense in the NFL, and Ryan/Jones is the best tandem. Seahawks fans better hope for big gusts.
Art – You’re not going wobbly on our boys now, are you?
All you jockeys out there go on and harump and sputter your outrage at the Donald I’ll stand and salute the colors to let y’all kneel. I’ve big shoulders and can take your boo hooing. Just remember it’s the bad LEOs that caused this earthquake of civil unrest and not Old Glory. Two tours of the Vietnam War I did all the behest of another crooked government but I still stand proudly for the call to colors. My Son is another latest example of misplaced loyalty to GOD and the Republic and went to the rattle of musketry in Iraqi freedom I thank my GOD he returned and I pray for those that didn’t (Chaplain VFW 239 and District 4) How about we junk the politics and concentrate on the gridiron? This matchup may or may not be in the cards but dollars to donuts it should be a good clash of the titans, right? Shalom y’all.
There’s room for everyone in the stadium and in the audience. I would like to think it so elsewhere, despite massive evidence to the contrary.
But I must say the civil unrest did not come from nowhere. The unrest is a symptom, not a cause.
I expect another fun matchup like the one against Brandon Marshall. The weather may keep the ball on the ground though more often than not. I expect both coaches to call a conservative game.
I’m glad there are men on our team that recognize and speak out about important issues. Kids look up to them especially young boys. I’m glad that they will here from their heroes that some talk and behavior is NOT OKAY and that we all as Americans need to work on making sure their really is “justice for all.” A flag is just a symbol. Justice is a reality.
It seems as many agree with your position on athlete activism as oppose it. I understand why people see sports as a sanctuary. I also know people like fairy tales too.
A sanctuary like a movie theatre..total escapism. Theatre and football reflect life or neither would be interesting.
Baseball has always been a parable of life..What are you going to do when you come up to bat? Strike out? Bunt, Get hit by a pitch? Walk? Homer? Be a hero or a goat? And yes..it teaches ethics..how to play by the rules. With little or no tolerance for cheats.
Football..same thing. Doesn’t life feel like third and long sometimes? What are you gonna do? Punt? Throw it to the end zone?
We see ourselves in the games…that’s half the fun of it. The other half? leaving our troubles behind for 3 or 4 hours while we cheer the best and holler at the ump.
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The best against the best is the reason to watch professional sports. Sherman against Jones will be well worth the price of admission.
As for the protests, well, the players have a right to believe what they believe, and they have a right to protest what they believe is a wrong that should be righted. The fact that these protests are happening is an indication that something needs to be fixed – soon. It really doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with their protests or their reasoning; something is wrong. We need to open communication and figure out what is wrong and how to fix it. Pointing fingers accomplishes NONE of that.