EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It didn’t matter that Richard Sherman wasn’t really certain which teammate was behind him.
What mattered was that he knew for sure one of his teammates was there.
“I know that Earl (Thomas) or Kam (Chancellor) are on their way,” Sherman said. “At all times, they are speeding somewhere in the vicinity.”
So when Eli Manning lofted a pass toward Hakeem Nicks in the corner of the end zone with 4:24 left Sunday, Sherman confidently tipped the ball back in play, where Thomas swooped in to grab it.
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And when he did, he preserved Seattle’s first shutout of the season, a 23-0 win over the Giants Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium that pushed the Seahawks closer to clinching all of their regular-season goals.
Because the 49ers beat Tampa Bay 33-14, the Seahawks could not clinch the NFC West title outright. But thanks to New Orleans’ loss to the Rams, all the Seahawks need is to beat either Arizona at home next week or St. Louis the week after to claim the division title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs (one 49ers loss, to either Atlanta or at Arizona, would also do the trick).
And assuming they get that done, the Seahawks will become even stronger favorites to return to MetLife Stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2.
“It’s a beautiful place,” Sherman said with a smile. “And we’d love to be back.”
A week after a 19-17 loss at San Francisco that put a little bit of urgency back into their remaining schedule, the Seahawks played a game as complete as any this season.
The Giants didn’t cross midfield until there was 7:08 left in the game and managed just 181 yards, the fewest allowed by the Seahawks this season.
The Giants had just 25 yards rushing on 14 carries, the fewest allowed by the Seahawks since holding the Rams to 17 on Dec. 17, 2002.
“We didn’t block anybody,” grumbled Giants coach Tom Coughlin after his team fell to 5-9. “We didn’t make any plays.”
Seattle’s defense also had five interceptions — two each by Sherman and Byron Maxwell — and forced the Giants to punt on each of their other eight possessions.
Sherman said the defense was motivated by a few comments it heard from the Giants during the week, including one from Manning in which he noted how Sherman likes to “get his hands on the receivers” and that the Giants would “try to take advantage of his style of play.”
“Eli said we are over-aggressive and that they were going to take advantage of that,” Sherman said. “And I think we showed him we are over-aggressive, but it’s hard to take advantage of it. It’s easier said than done.”
Manning’s five interceptions gave him 25 for the season, most in the NFL.
The offense, meanwhile, shook off a sluggish start (four punts on their first five possessions) to score on five of six possessions from the middle of the second quarter until early in the fourth.
“We had a terrific football game today,” gushed coach Pete Carroll. “Really loved the way we played across the board. … everybody hit, ran hard and played tough football the way we want to do it.”
Russell Wilson threw one touchdown pass, becoming only the third player in history to throw for 50 or more in his first two seasons (Dan Marino and Peyton Manning are the others).
Running back Marshawn Lynch and receiver Doug Baldwin each had six receptions as Wilson hit seven different players, in going 18 of 27 for 206 yards.
It was the defense that carried the day, though. At the end of the first half, Manning threw a desperation heave near the Seattle goal line that either Thomas or Sherman could have picked off. Thomas relented and let Sherman get it — his second of the day and sixth of the season, putting him in a tie for the NFL lead — then reminded him of it as they headed off the field.
“That’s what you do for your brother,” Thomas said. “And when you do good things like that, the ball always comes back and finds you.”
The Giants’ longest drive through the first three quarters was 29 yards, none lasting more than five plays. Midway through the fourth quarter, it took a personal foul on Chancellor on a completed pass to finally get New York past midfield.
The shutout seemed doomed when the Giants got to the Seattle 13 a few plays later. But on second down came the Manning pass to Nicks and Sherman’s tip. As Thomas had predicted, the ball did indeed come back and find him, bringing with it a much-desired shutout.
“I tried to tip it up with enough air for someone to get under it,” Sherman said. “And Earl got under it. I owed him one.”
|Rise and shine|
|The Seahawks were 19-34 in 10 a.m. games in the 12 years before this season, including 1-3 last season. This season, they won four out of five 10 a.m. games, including the last two by a combined score of 56-10.|
|2012||1-3||Beat Chicago in OT; three losses by a total of 13 points.|
|2013||4-1||Rallied from 20-3 down at Houston; dominated Atlanta; lost at Indy.|
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta.