Hype can be a dangerous mistress. Buy too much into it and arrogance -- and its attendant cousin laziness -- can creep in. Downplay it and risk losing the psychological edge gained from an opponent's healthy sense of fear. Sometimes hype can look like a lose-lose situation.
However, the four defensive backs that comprise the Seattle Seahawks “legion of boom” -- cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor -- have turned the hype into a win-win scenario.
Make that a win-win-win-win scenario.
The Seahawks have a number of players to thank as they’ve jumped out the first 4-0 start in team history. But start with numbers 25, 39, 29, and 31.
Seattle’s defense leads the league in opposing QB passer rating at 60.7. They’re tied for third in interceptions with seven. And they’re fourth in the league in passing yards per game, surrendering an average of just 191 per game.
Much of the credit goes to Seattle’s secondary. An aggressive yet intelligent approach to opposing offenses has yielded spectacular results a quarter of the way through the 2013 season. Their tip drill interception of Houston quarterback Matt Schaub in the first quarter of Sunday’s comeback win against the Texans epitomizes their attitude, as no fewer than four defenders touched the ball before Thomas came down with it. The relentlessness and total team effort characterizes so much of what makes the Seahawks secondary great.
Coming up with big plays at important moments has also become a hallmark of the Seahawks. In week one on the road against the Carolina Panthers, the Seahawks were clinging to a 12-7 lead in the fourth quarter as the Panthers drove down the field deep into Seattle territory. When DeAngelo Williams broke through the defensive line to the Seattle 8-yard line, he was met by Thomas, who stripped the ball and forced a fumble that was recovered by Tony McDaniel, and the Seahawks held on to win.
Last week’s pick six by Richard Sherman was even bigger. Trailing 13-20 with less than three minutes to go, Schuab tried to force a pass to tight end Owen Daniels that was picked off by Sherman and returned 58-yards for a game-tying touchdown. The Seahawks would win with a field goal on their second possession in overtime.
Speaking with Seahawks reporter Clare Farnsworth, Sherman was quick to credit his fellow defensive backs for his success on the play.
“Earl (Thomas) did a great job of disguising. Kam (Chancellor) did a great job of disguising,” Sherman said.
“Without those guys doing what they did, I don’t think he throws the ball. So because those guys did a great job, I was the one who was able to capitalize and the guy who made the play.”
Sherman has made a lot of plays through the first four games but the mark of a truly elite cornerback comes with the plays they never even have to make. When you ascend to the highest level of the position, quarterbacks will simply ignore your side of the field and attack other parts of the defense. After leading the NFL in passes defensed last season, this is exactly the situation Sherman now finds himself in; most of the time, quarterbacks aren’t even bothering to look his way, much less throw on him.
Over the past season, Sherman has emerged as not only one of the NFL’s best corners but as one of its most colorful characters. The always reliable NFL Films posted a fantastic profile on him yesterday. Entitled “The Trash-Talking Cornerback,” it spotlights his always amusing smack talk as well as his roots in Compton, CA where he remains an inspiration to the community.
“People think the best feelings in the world are when you score a touchdown in front of millions of people,” Sherman tells a group of students in the film. “That’s not the best feeling for me. In my opinion, the best feeling is when you help somebody who has nothing.”
For now, Sherman will have to content himself with helping his legion of boom teammates build on their fast start. Their game on Sunday at the 3-1 Indianapolis Colts looks to be their biggest challenge of the season.