Richard Sherman came up with a huge deflection to seal Seattle's NFC Championship Game victory over the 49ers.
This win should not be seen as a referendum on Sherman's postgame rant after the NFC title contest. In a month, that whole affair will be consigned to the "why did we care?" file cabinet. The win should be seen as an indication that Sherman is the NFL's most valuable player who is not a quarterback or running back. Arguably, he may be the most valuable player on the field at the Super Bowl, even when quarterbacks and running backs are added to the equation.
Seattle's defense was the league's best, allowing just 14.4 points per game during the regular season and 16 points per game in the postseason so far. The Seahawks have many standout defenders, including Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner and Brandon Mebane. But Sherman is their game-changer, playing the cornerback position as few before him have.
It's not just his distinctive 6-foot-3 height or his ability to anticipate where the ball is going. It's not just his sticks-like-glue approach. Sherman, who was a wide receiver in high school and college, plays the position as if he still is a wide receiver -- as if he's the one running the pattern. Most secondaries are coached to drop off and prevent gains. The Seattle secondary is coached to catch the pass. It posted a league-leading 28 interceptions (eight of them from Sherman) in the regular season, and a game-clinching interception in the NFC title game. Several Seattle defensive backs are unusually good at catching the pass; Sherman is the best.
Sherman gets a bonus gold star in TMQ's book because he attended Stanford and graduated. Born in Compton, Calif., a tough environment, he handled himself just fine at one of the nation's elite universities. His degree is in communications, which he is good at most of the time -- the Erin Andrews interview excepted.
The PFWA Defensive Player of the Year award went to Robert Quinn of the Rams -- though the Rams were a terrible team with a crummy defense that allowed at least 30 points on five occasions. But Quinn had 19 sacks, a flashy personal stat. No one on the Seattle defense had a really flashy personal stat. But they played as a team and stopped the opposition from scoring. That's one reason Sherman is this year's Non-QB Non-RB MVP.
Actual exchange between a reporter and Sherman on Super Bowl media day: