The one thing the Seahawks could count on this season was the top-flight cornerback shutting down one half of the field. The other cornerback spot has been a weak point for the team.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Richard Sherman’s quotes have ranged from funny, to absurd, to insightful, to inspiring.
He is a walking sound bite built for anyone with a microphone or tape recorder.
But the three words he uttered from the sideline during the third quarter Thursday are his most resonant to date.
“Tore my Achilles,” he said.
Good luck finding many 12s celebrating the Seahawks’ 22-16 win over the Cardinals. That evening put a lump in their stomachs more so than it did joy in their hearts.
Sherman, who teared up while addressing the media after the game, is out for the season. And he likely took his team’s championship hopes with him.
“I don’t even know how to address this right now,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He has been just a bastion of consistency, competitiveness and toughness — just an extraordinary, iconic player in this league. We’re going to miss the heck out of him.”
Can you picture a Seahawks game without Richard Sherman in uniform? It’s awfully difficult considering he hasn’t missed a game in his six-and-a-half-year NFL career. Thursday was his 105th consecutive game and 99th career start.
But it isn’t his sturdiness that turned the cornerback into one of the most recognizable figures in the game. It was the combination of brashness, thoughtfulness and peerless ability.
Sherman knew his team needed him out on the field. If there has been one weakness in Seattle’s defense this year, it’s lied with whichever cornerback has lined up opposite Sherman. Whether it’s Shaq Griffin, Jeremy Lane or Justin Coleman, the Seahawks (6-3) lack panic-inducing talent on that side of the field.
Remember when those Sherman trade rumors were swirling this past offseason? There was a time when it seemed like it might actually happen. But given the lack of depth at cornerback, dealing him was never a practical option.
This isn’t 2013, when the Seahawks could have turned to Brandon Browner, Byron Maxwell or Walter Thurmond — among others — to fill in for No. 25. Obviously none of those guys possessed Sherman’s talent, but they were capable enough where the drop-off might not have been substantial.
And those Super Bowl Seattle teams also had a more potent offense to take some of the pressure off the D. This one does not.
That’s part of the reason why Sherman kept playing despite his Achilles bothering since the Rams game in Week 5. He said he knew he would probably rupture it at some point, but there was no way team doctors could talk him out of playing.
“Every game matters. You go out there and play for your teammates. You give them all you got. They deserve it,” said Sherman, who felt his Achilles pop on a cut while covering Cardinals receiver John Brown. “We were kind of beat up at corner anyway. I didn’t want to leave the young guys out there and leave them in tough spots.”
One has to be wary of living in the moment, but this injury feels catastrophic. This Seahawks squad has never really felt dominant this season, and it just lost its second-best defensive player behind Earl Thomas.
The better NFL quarterbacks tend to find a way to post big numbers on Seattle, as DeShaun Watson proved last month and a slew of others proved last year. Imagine their salivation levels knowing another side of the field just opened up.
Whether this injury is a result of the short rest that comes before a Thursday night football game is hard to say. Perhaps a few extra off days would have helped. We can’t know, but given Sherman has been a most vocal critic of TNF, this feels particularly frustrating.
When Thomas broke his leg before the final quarter of last season, the Seahawks never recovered. Losses to the Packers and the Cardinals — who scored 38 and 34 points, respectively — cost them the No. 2 seed, which led to a whooping at the hands of Matt Ryan in Atlanta.
Would Sherman missing the rest of the year have similar ramifications? Absolutely. In fact, I’d be shocked if it didn’t.
Earlier this season, Sherman told the media that he didn’t get enough credit for this. He was probably right.
Sherman’s durability was impressive. His capability even more so.
The chances of the Seahawks making a playoff run looks close to impossible now. Sherman hasn’t missed a game yet, but we already know his team isn’t the same without him.