Why the Packers stayed away from Richard Sherman


In case you missed it, Richard Sherman became a superstar this year.

In January, he drew mainstream attention (both good and bad) with his NFC Championship post-game interview. In February, he helped the Seattle Seahawks win Super Bowl XLVIII. In June, the public voted Sherman the Madden 15 cover model. In July, he won the ESPY Award for Breakthrough Athlete. And along the way, he picked up numerous endorsement deals and appeared in an increasing number of local and national TV ad campaigns. (Note: I live in Seattle, and you really cannot watch local TV here for 30 minutes without seeing Richard Sherman.)

Because Sherman has been everywhere lately, it may have seemed odd that his name wasn’t mentioned a lot during the NFL’s season-opening game/party last Thursday — Seattle’s 36-16 blowout of the Green Bay Packers.

But that temporary anonymity was just another example of why Sherman is considered the best cornerback in the game: the Packers didn’t throw in Sherman’s direction a single time all night. Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette explains:

Jarrett Boykin was the sacrificial lamb. The third-year receiver lined up on the right side of the field, across from Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, completely ignored. No catches. No targets.

The Packers tried to exploit No. 1 receiver Jordy Nelson‘s matchup against Seattle cornerback Byron Maxwell. There were good moments – Nelson had nine grabs for 83 yards. There were also bad – Maxwell intercepted a pass that bounced out of Nelson’s hands, arguably the game’s turning point.

The Seahawks effectively took away half the field. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers barely ever looked to the right side. Rodgers only threw three passes to the right side of the field, according to Pro Football Focus. Two were thrown in the backfield.

The other 30 passes Rodgers threw were directed to the left, away from Sherman.

“I don’t think you ever make a conscious decision not to throw to one side of the field,” McCarthy said. “Frankly, it was more of a decision to put Jordy on the left and see if (Sherman) would come over and play him. They played their defense and obviously they did a heck of a job. I’m sure they feel good about where they are today.

“Frankly, it’s easier for the receivers to stay to one side of the field than the other as far as what we were doing. Our plan was to run our stuff, line up as quick as we can.”

Rather than move Sherman all over the place shadowing Green Bay’s top receiver (Nelson), as many teams will do with their best cover guy, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll rarely flips his corners. Sherman usually plays the QB’s right side, and whoever comes over there is who he’s guarding.

As a strategist, you just have to ask yourself: Is it more important to try to take one particular receiver out of the game, or is it better to essentially take one side of the field out of play?

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