RENTON — Charles Tillman had the “Peanut Punch.”
And Byron Maxwell continues to perfect the “chicken” chop.
Cornerbacks aren’t usually known as the best on NFL defenses at stripping the football from ball carriers. But during the Seahawks’ 21-12 victory at Dallas on Sunday, Maxwell recorded his 11th career forced fumble when he jabbed the ball away from wide receiver Dez Bryant in the second quarter, leading to a Seattle touchdown.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday that he thought Maxwell (five solo tackles, one pass defended, one forced fumble) played his best game since returning to the team in early November.
“He was solid across the board, aggressive in coverage and tackled well,” Carroll said. “He looked like he was on it.”
Maxwell said after he was selected by Seattle in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Clemson, he immediately came to the conclusion he had to showcase a different skill “besides interceptions” to stay on the field with fellow rookies Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman, and first-year regular Walter Thurmond in the mix for cornerback roster spots.
Maxwell paid close attention to a series of videos the defensive staff would show of Tillman — the NFL’s all-time leader for cornerbacks with 44 forced fumbles who’s nickname was Peanut — punching the football out of the hands of wide receivers and running backs.
So he tried doing that in practice, sometimes whiffing altogether. “I tried, and I didn’t know how to get it out,” Maxwell said.
Former Seahawks coach Rocky Seto was the one primarily responsible for fostering Maxwell’s skill of taking the football away.
“Rocky Seto saw that I was trying to emulate (Tillman), and he would coach me up on it, helping (show) me, ‘This is where you want to punch at it, and this is how you get it out,’ ” Maxwell said.
By the 2013 season, Maxwell was arguably the best defender on the team at poking the football out of opponents’ hands. He even knocked it away from Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas in Seattle’s 43-8 win over the Broncos in the Super Bowl.
“(Punching at the ball) is a very difficult choice,” Carroll said. “It is why guys don’t try it more, because they want to secure the tackle. There is a real knack to it. There is a timing and a feel for it.”
Eventually, Maxwell left the Seahawks to sign a six-year, $65 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015.
That lasted one season. The Eagles traded Maxwell to Miami a year later. He was eventually released by the Dolphins last October.
After Sherman suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in the Seahawks’ 22-16 victory over Arizona in early November, Seattle signed Maxwell, 29, to a one-year, free-agent deal a week later.
Maxwell’s eight forced fumbles in the past three seasons leads all NFL cornerbacks in that span. He had four last season with the Dolphins, which prompted younger teammates to refer to his ball-hawking act as “getting to the chicken.”
“He is one of the best, man,” Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright said. “He has a whole different mindset to go after the ball.”