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The Film Room: How Richard Sherman shut down Antonio Brown last season

In a matchup between two of the NFL's top players, Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown faced off against Seattle Seahawks corner Richard Sherman in Week 12 of last season. Brown was targeted 12 times by Ben Roethlisberger, catching six passes for 51 yards; the numbers were well below his season averages, as Brown led the NFL with 136 catches and added 1,834 yard with 10 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Sherman got his first interception of the season, plus an uncounted pick on a two-point conversion attempt. In coverage, Sherman played a mixture of outside zone coverage and man coverage in the slot to stop the prolific wide receiver.

Quarter Defender Route Result
1 Kam Chancellor Flat Incomplete
1 Richard Sherman Screen Complete - 2 yards
1 Richard Sherman Drag Incomplete
1 Richard Sherman Hitch Complete - 15 yards
1 Richard Sherman Go Incomplete
2 Richard Sherman Hitch Incomplete
3 Jeremy Lane In Complete - 5 yards
3 Richard Sherman Hitch Complete - 7 yards
3 DeShawn Shead Hitch Complete - 11 yards
3 Richard Sherman Screen Complete - 11 yards
4 Richard Sherman Go Interception
4 Richard Sherman Hitch Incomplete

My Three Takeaways

  1. After the first quarter, Sherman outplayed Brown with his physical coverage.
  2. Sherman's intelligence showed clearly as he broke up multiple passes.
  3. Brown showed impeccable footwork gaining 33 yards on hitch routes.

The Steelers and the Seahawks won't see each other next season unless they meet in the Super Bowl, but each has a premier matchup in Week 1 of the regular season. Brown faces Josh Norman of the Washington Redskins and Sherman faces Jarvis Landry of the Miami Dolphins. Needless to say these matchups will be excellent to dive deeper into later on.

My take on the interception: This play will undoubtedly create controversy. I saw this series of events:

  1. Brown attempts to swipe away Sherman's arm.
  2. Sherman shoves Brown's left shoulder which unbalances him.
  3. Brown's ankle clips his other leg causing him to fall down.

If this is the case, then it's defensive pass interference. Maybe this shove falls into the same category as the "veteran shove" does for wide receivers? Each of us will obviously have our own opinions, but this was my gut feeling when I saw the play. I do, however, admit that it can easily go the other direction. With that being said, I'm completely okay from a referee standpoint that no call was made.

At the end of the day, it's easy to see why Sherman could very well be the best corner in the NFL as he completely neutralized arguably the game's best receiver.