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Manning exposed: Seahawks win, Richard Sherman continues his season of subdued dominance

Not nearly as easy as the Super Bowl, Seattle ended up just being a little better at defense than Denver was.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the Seattle Seahawks game against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, we had a very convenient frame of reference as far as what we might expect to see. After all, no other two teams that have played against each other this season had met as recently as the Seahawks and Broncos had. Based on what we saw in the Super Bowl this past February, what sort of guess could we hazard about the outcome?

Here were the three most important facts in regards to that:

- Seattle dominated Denver 43-8.

- The Broncos have overhauled their defense, not to mention replacing Knowshon Moreno and Eric Decker.

- This game would be in Seattle, not New Jersey.

I think it would be fair to say that Denver's defense was better than it was last season, more prepared to handle the Seahawks, and therefore it would be fair to say that the game would be closer than it was last time. Now, there was a 35-point difference to make up and the Broncos would have to make up that difference in a place that Owen Wilson in Armageddon might call, "the scariest environment imaginable" so would Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib be enough to change the final score that much?

Apparently so.

Going into this game I might have been 98% excited and 2% scared but headed into Peyton Manning's final drive, those figures were definitely flip-flopped. And Manning delivered in a way that only the guy who I would say is the easiest answer to the question "Who is the greatest quarterback of all-time?" could deliver. There's no question that at certain times the Seattle defense got got by Manning and the Broncos receivers, including multiple times on their last drive, but overall this was another dominant performance of the Seahawks secondary against a legendary QB.

Eight of Denver's first 10 drives ended in a punt. The other two ended in a fumble and a field goal. Five of those drives didn't last even 10 yards. In fact, Manning really couldn't do shit against Seattle until finally Russell Wilson made a mistake (and it's fair to say that he did, though it rarely happens) and the Broncos got started on the Seahawks 19-yard line with 11:02 left to go. Up until that point they had run just 11 plays in Seahawks territory and 10 of those plays came on their second drive of the game.

On Manning's next drive he threw a "Sea-king duck" to Kameron Chancellor.

Then finally when he had no other choice, Manning started chucking the ball downfield and on his second attempt, connected with Emmanuel Sanders for a gain of 42. His next two passes were incomplete. He found Julius Thomas for 12 yards. Then Jacob Tamme went practically uncovered into the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown. The two-point completion to Demaryius Thomas was a play that no defense could really stop, as much as they hope that it's not that one time where Thomas manages to drag his second foot inbounds. (And still, it sent people on Twitter into a frenzy that Richard Sherman had been "exposed" "again" even though I don't really think they know what that word "means." More on that later.)

So here we were watching a game tied at 20-20 at the end of regulation and I ask you again, what did we know about these two teams from the last time they met and how they've gotten better or worse? Well, the Broncos defense got better and their offense still couldn't really do much against the Seattle defense. And look at that, the Seahawks scored less and Manning's offense were pretty much just as inept against the Seattle defense as they were last time; the only difference is that this time when they had 12 points and a minute to go, they actually had a reason to try and score.

Denver was defeated at the beginning of the second half of the Super Bowl and in this one, their defense kept them in it throughout and the result was much, much closer. The tie-breaking difference might have ended up being that homefield advantage, and I'll take it. After seeing Wilson run a perfect offense in overtime, clearly so will he.

Let's make like Ricardo Lockette and bullet:

- Denver rushed for just 27 yards in the Super Bowl and turned the ball over four times. This time they turned the ball over "only" twice but made a clear effort to try and be more effective in the running game. It didn't work. The Broncos gained 36 yards on 20 carries for an average of 1.8 yards per carry. If you add that to their totals from the Super Bowl, then Denver has now rushed for 63 yards on 34 carries in their last two games against the Seahawks.

Seattle's rush defense was good last year, ranking seventh in yards per carry allowed (3.9) and first in rushing touchdowns allowed (4) but it's much better this year. The Seahawks are allowing 2.78 yards per carry through three games with one touchdown. Just as a frame of reference, only two teams in the last 60 years have allowed fewer than 2.8 yards per carry for an entire season.

Maybe it's time to introduce the Legion of Boom to the Magnificent Front Seven.

- As the Broncos tied the game at 20 on a two-point conversion to Demaryius Thomas, Sherman was once again spotlighted on TV because he was the one covering Thomas on the play. He was also seen visibly upset on the sidelines just after the play, which delighted millions of people who hate Richard Sherman because he thinks he's so good. Whatever the difference is between "confidence" and "self-assured arrogance," Sherman left confidence behind to die on a dusty trail long ago in the eyes of most fans.

And people hate self-assured arrogance, especially on this level where you're playing against the greatest athletes in the world. So it doesn't take long for opposing NFL fans to revel in a moment where Sherman is beaten, and now this word "exposed" has become the en vogue term to describe any play where Sherman doesn't have a pick-six, apparently.

Just to review:

- Sherman was not targeted a single time by Aaron Rodgers in Week 1.

- Sherman was targeted five times by Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen gained 54 yards on four catches.

- Sherman was targeted seven times by Peyton Manning, he allowed two catches for 24 yards, plus this impossible-to-defend two-point conversion.

Through three weeks, "the most exposed corner in the game and don't you ever forget it" has been targeted 12 times and allowed six catches for 78 yards, no touchdowns, and one pass deflection. He's often facing off against the other team's best receiver, and the Seahawks have played against three of the best five or six quarterbacks in the NFL. Anyone who uses the word "exposed" to describe that, is either completely idiotic or just not really paying any attention.

I'd give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the latter.

Second of all, can they clarify what they mean by "exposed"? You have to have a follow-up to a statement like that, such as "He's exposed! He's only the second-best corner in the game." Or "He's the worst corner in the game!" Or "He's not even a corner, he's a round room."

Here's Sherman getting exposed by Thomas. Sherman sticks to Thomas as best he can on the first move, but then Thomas jukes left and there's not a human alive that would be able to cover a receiver over the next split second after a double-move. Mutant maybe ...


It's at this point that Thomas is open for a split-second and now needs to leap up as high as only he can get it, and then even after he secures the ball he finds that he only has enough room to land the tips of his toes and nothing more. You'd think that "exposed" would include allowing a middling receiver to make an easy catch, not an elite receiver having to make a catch so difficult that the refs had to take a minute or two when reviewing it.


And people have such short memories. It was only a few minutes earlier in the quarter that Sherman exposed Thomas as a receiver:


When it was all said and done, Sherman was targeted seven times. He allowed two catches: A 12-yarder to Emmanuel Sanders in the first quarter and a 12-yarder to Emmanuel Sanders in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks were facing off against Peyton Manning and the "best offense ever!"

If this is Richard Sherman at his worst, then that's exactly why he's the best.

Byron Maxwell on the other hand ...

- Look, I know how much people do not like it when I point out a negative on Seattle and that we would much rather find reasons why the numbers are wrong rather than right, but I need to try and be a fair and balanced as possible. We can't revel in Sherman's phenomenal numbers from last season and then recoil when those same numbers suggest the opposite for one of his teammates.

Maxwell has been put in a tough position. Because he plays opposite of Sherman and because the Seahawks are often leading, he gets a higher-than-average number of targets and faces off against receivers that might be better than most "number two" corners have to face off against. And like Sherman, he's faced off against three of the best quarterbacks in the game. It's entirely possible that at the end of the year, Maxwell will use his elite ballskills to gather in eight or nine interceptions and have a really fun season when he gets to see Eli Manning or Alex Smith or Derek Carr.

But I want everyone to gather in a circle, turn your hats around backwards, and sit on your chairs backwards as well, because we're about to get real.

If anyone's been "exposed" as a viable option to go after time and time again, it's Maxwell. He's been targeted 25 times and allowed 20 catches for 245 yards. That's 80% completions, 12.3 yards per catch, and a passer rating of 104.2. It's the most catches and yards allowed by any corner in the NFL. They aren't the worst numbers in the NFL, Maxwell has two pass deflections and an interception, and has not gotten burned over and over so much as he's been worn through like a lucky pair of socks. By comparison, Morris Claiborne of the Dallas Cowboys has allowed 10 catches for 225 yards and three touchdowns.

Maxwell remains a good corner, he could probably just be doing a little better. I'm sure he would agree with that.

- Never forget that the defense remains on point, despite a last-minute all-out offensive blitz by Denver.

- On the final drive, Wilson picked up six first downs. Four by pass, two by running (one of which was reversed had five years tacked on for a defensive holding penalty) and two on third down. Anything negative you could say about Wilson almost "Lucking" this game away in the fourth quarter was quickly replaced by his brilliant overtime drive.

The Seahawks pulled out a big win over a team that many had just recently said was "the best team in the NFL" to get to 2-1. I guess everyone else besides me is going to have to change those power rankings back again.