SEATTLE — Distractions? What distractions?
Following a week filled with intrigue and speculation, all Richard Sherman did was play the best football game of his life.
Sherman had two interceptions — returning one for a his first career touchdown — a fumble recovery and a handful of big hits to stand out in a constellation of star performances as the Seattle Seahawks pummeled Arizona 58-0 in an NFL game Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
“Oh, he had an outstanding game,” Seattle safety Kam Chancellor said of Sherman. “He prepared all week, studied a lot of film. He was just breaking up everything. If you do things right, the ball will come to you.”
That could be said of the entire team as Seattle had eight takeaways altogether, two short of the team record of 10, set in 1981 against Cleveland.
Rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner matched Sherman with two interceptions, defensive end Chris Clemons forced and recovered a fumble, and special teams recovered two fumbles, one for a touchdown.
“I’ve never been involved in anything where the ball falls your way every single time,” Sherman said. “It seemed like if the ball was going to come out it was going to fall our way.
“Even on the fumble where I got the recovery, it just kept bouncing around,” he said. “I was like, ‘There’s no way this ball’s going to bounce right to me.’ and it did.
“It was the opposite of Murphy’s Law. Everything that could go right went right.”
The week didn’t start out that way for Sherman and the rest of the defense.
It has been widely reported that Sherman and fellow cornerback Brandon Browner each have tested positive for banned performance enhancing drugs and face a four-game suspension.
Browner chose not to appeal his suspension and started serving it by missing Sunday’s game. Sherman is appealing his suspension, with his hearing set for Friday.
Although Sherman did not directly address that situation on Sunday — “Wait ‘til it plays itself out,” was all he said about it — he didn’t deny that there were some off-field issues during the week.
“There’s always something going on in the NFL. You’ve just got to focus on your job,” he said. “We have a job to do out there, and that’s what we focus on.”
For Sherman and Walter Thurmond, who stepped in for Browner, that meant a careful study of Cardinals all-everything wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Their performance exceeded even their own wildest fantasies.
Fitzgerald caught only one pass, a completely harmless reception in the fourth quarter that went for just two yards.
“You don’t come into a game ever expecting to hold Larry to one catch. He’s one of the best receivers in the world, probably top five or six in the history of the game,” Sherman said. “To hold him down is a testament to our entire defense, everybody playing disciplined, everybody doing their job.”
“It’s not just me,” he said. “It’s everybody.”
Sherman caught more passes that were intended for Fitzgerald than Fitzgerald did, as both of his interceptions were on balls meant for Fitzgerald.
The second one came in the second quarter when Sherman stepped in front of a badly underthrown ball from Arizona quarterback John Skelton then easily covered 19 yards down the sideline for a touchdown that made the score 24-0.
“Skelton didn’t look him off, didn’t look away. I don’t think he saw me, to tell the truth,” Sherman said. “I think he was reading (safety) Earl (Thomas), and Earl was kind of in his hip pocket. He just threw it up expecting Fitz to run under it, and I was already there.”
The two interceptions gave Sherman six for the season and already 10 in his two-year career, gaudy numbers for a fifth-round draft choice who didn’t play defense until his senior year at Stanford.
“Nobody knew about Sherm, and now he’s a household name,” Thomas said. “We’ve got a lot of depth here, and it just shows week in and week out.”
Thomas pointed to Thurmond as another example.
During the week the Seahawks considered keeping Sherman on Fitzgerald in all formations, but they ultimately decided to play it straight with Sherman on the left and Thurmond on the right, even when it put Thurmond alone on Fitzgerald.
“I wanted to go against the best,” said Thurmond, who made the fifth start of his three-year career. “I’m very capable of guarding any receiver in the league. They let us play sides, and it worked out this week.”
As did just about everything Seattle did.
“I’ve never been around eight turnovers, ever,” Sherman said. “So many guys did well today. It’s kind of the perfect storm.”