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headscratchingsports
01-20-2014, 19:54
The Richard Sherman Ripple Effect

For as boring as the AFC Championship game was, the Seahwaks/49ers game was the exact opposite. It was expected to be the more intense game. Two young teams, two young coaches, two young star quarterbacks, two tough defenses, and THEY HATE EACH OTHER! The emotion in this game was intense. They even had the officials and assistants standing at midfield to make sure that these two teams stayed far away from each other. The 12th man (which has been an overplayed story this year, but clearly makes a huge difference in that stadium) was loud from the first minute the FOX broadcast started. The 49ers had to get custom earpieces made to try and drown out some of the stadium noise, so it is clearly a factor that was taken into consideration. So what happened when the game started.

This game was about as even as it could possibly be. Time of Possession, turnovers, penalties, Total Yards (was actually EXACTLY THE SAME at 308). The list could go on, but there were some differences that kept this game swinging back and forth. The 49ers defense was impressive all game. The 2 TDs against them came on a play where 1) Marshawn Lynch did everything right and took one to the house, and 2) Russell Wilson on a free play throws a laser for a touchdown on 4th and 7 from 35 yards out. Other than those two plays the 49ers defense did everything they could to keep the team in the game. Kaepernick just wasn't as good as Wilson. When you have a great defense you need to control the game, and Kaepernick doesn't do that. He gets too impatient and it lead to 2 INTs late that cost him the game. When they lost Mike Iupati the team clearly wasn't the same, even more when Navarro Bowman left the game. Injuries to key players are an unpredictable part of the game.

So what about Seattle. Wilson didn't look comfortable early, until that bomb to Doug Baldwin (on a play where he scrambled for about 9 seconds and heaved one down the field). Wilson did what Kaepernick couldn't do: manage the game. How many rushing yards did Wilson have Sunday? Answer: 0. None. He played quarterback and trusted his teammates to make the plays they needed to make. Lynch, who was quiet in the first half, took over in the 2nd half and took some pressure off of Wilson. That's what a team needs at this stage - guys who can step up and make big plays on offense (Lynch, Baldwin) and take the pressure off of your quarterback. Don't get me wrong, Wilson had a great game but he wasn't the story here.

The story was Seattle's defense. Wilson fumbles on the opening drive, Seattle holds them to 3. Seattle fumbles on 3rd and Goal (and get it back on a blown call where Bowman clearly had it) and on 4th and Goal, and the Seahawks force Kaepernick to make a bad throw and turn the ball over. End of the game, Richard Sherman makes a great play in man coverage to knock the ball away and Kam Chancellor happens to be there to pick it off and seal the game. The number 1 defense this year played like it when it counted - again, what you need out of your football team in a big game is the guys that need to step up.

And then there was Richard Sherman scaring the bejeezus out of Erin Andrews, who tried to keep the interview going but clearly had her producer in her ear saying "SEND IT BACK TO JOE THIS GUY IS NUTS!!!!" Twitter didn't care for his postgame response, and neither did I for this reason.

You have 52 other guys there today who helped you win the game. How about acknowledging that your team is called the Seahawks and not the "Shermans"? The guy can play - nobody is debating that. But you have to understand your role as an high profile athlete. You're also not the best character guy. You were given a chance to be somebody. Don't give people the opportunity to make you out to be a thug, unless you truly are one, because the rest of the world will paint your image based on your actions. That action was demonstratively negative and expect to be characterized the next two weeks as such. That's the way it is, bro.

The number 1 offense vs the number 1 defense is exactly what you want in a Super Bowl, and the NFL got the best possible outcome. Granted, any of those matchups would have made for a great game, but this one had to be the highest on the NFL's list. 2 weeks until the Super Bowl - plenty of time for Erin Andrews to talk to see a therapist, plenty of time for "legalized pot states made the Super Bowl" jokes and storylines, and plenty of time for these teams to prepare and play what is likely to be an extraordinary football game on February 2nd.