If you know Richard Sherman, you know he’s not afraid to talk. And one of the latest, most notable musings from the veteran San Francisco 49ers cornerback had the former Seattle Seahawks star saying he always “shows up” in big games. Anyone who watched the end of the 2013 NFC Championship is probably prone to believe him. But that game also took place more than a half-decade ago. Sherman is now approaching 32. He hasn’t played a full season in four years. And pretty much every other member of Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary, save for Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas, has completely faded from football glory.
Entering Super Bowl LIV, where Sherman and the Niners will be up against arguably the most explosive passing attack in the league, should we believe him? Is it still fair to call No. 25 a big-game cornerback? If history — including recent history — is any indication, then yes, it absolutely is. Let’s take a quick dive into Sherman’s postseason resume, which is probably even sturdier than you’d think.
The Stanford product has appeared in 14 career playoff games to this point, and his teams are a combined 10-4 in those games. That obviously speaks more to the talent of the teams than his individual performances, but when you look closer, well, you’ll see you don’t actually have to look hard to see his impact. In all but one of those 14 playoff games, in fact, Sherman has played at least 96 percent of his team’s defensive snaps, meaning the guy simply doesn’t come off the field if he’s active.
And when he’s active? He’s active, particularly when it matters most. Though he’s logged “just” four interceptions in the 14 playoff games, two of them have come in the last two weeks, against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers and Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings — two of the most interception-averse signal-callers of today’s NFL. He’s also logged at least one pass deflection in 10 of the 14 games, including arguably the biggest of his career in the most important moment of the Seahawks’ 2013 Super Bowl run — a tip of Colin Kaepernick’s end-zone pass to Michael Crabtree with 22 seconds remaining in that year’s NFC title game, which ultimately landed in the arms of teammate Malcolm Smith and sealed the Seahawks’ trip to compete for a Lombardi.
Crabtree was held to four catches for 54 yards on eight targets in that game, and the following year, when Sherman helped Seattle win its second straight NFC Championship, not a single Packers receiver topped 75 receiving yards. The corner flexed his lock-down muscles along the way, deflecting a Rodgers pass and picking off another while chipping in with four tackles in run defense. Speaking of getting in on ground defense, Sherman excelled in that regard in his 55-snap Super Bowl debut against the Denver Broncos to close the 2013 season, helping Seattle completely blank Peyton Manning’s backfield assistance in a 43-8 beat-down.
The following year, in his second Super Bowl appearance in as many seasons, Sherman kept pretty much everything in front of him during a 28-24 loss to the New England Patriots. Tom Brady managed to finish with 328 yards and four touchdowns through the air, but it was a game of short, methodical efficiency — and a game the Seahawks may very well have won had Seattle opted to run up the gut with Marshawn Lynch instead of throw the ball at the goal line. (Coincidentally, it was Sherman’s horrific reaction to Russell Wilson’s goal-line, game-ending pick that ended up going viral.)
As for this year’s playoff run? Sherman has assuredly benefited from San Francisco’s vaunted pass rush, but as the Niners’ last two games have showcased, he’s absolutely seized the opportunity, producing his most impactful postseason since the Seahawks’ last “Legion of Boom” run.
That’s not to say he — or others — won’t be victimized by the Chiefs‘ deep stable of speedy weapons come Sunday, but it is to say that any notion Sherman has lost his luster as a proven, big-game cover man is a foolish one. If there’s one thing San Francisco can count on when it takes the field at Hard Rock Stadium, it’s that they’ve got one of the top, most experienced and — bonus! — most rightfully confident playoff cornerbacks of his time.