ARLINGTON, Texas - The Cowboys' first offensive play of the day hinted at how the rest of the afternoon would go for their No. 1 wide receiver.
Dallas quarterback Matt Cassel targeted Dez Bryant on a slant route to open his team's initial possession and it was a pass that was broken up by Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman.
For Bryant, Sunday's game at AT&T Stadium marked his first action since suffering a broken foot in the Cowboys' regular-season opener. For Sherman, Sunday presented another opportunity for him to defend one of the League's best wideouts, something the Seahawks coaching staff told him he would be doing the day before the game.
Bryant wound up catching two of the seven balls thrown his way for a total of 12 yards. Sherman broke up Cassel's pass on four of those incompletions and also tackled Bryant for a loss of three yards on one of the wideout's two receptions.
"I thought Richard played a fantastic football game today," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after his team's 13-12 Week 8 win that upped Seattle's record to 4-4 entering its Week 9 bye. "Going against Dez, who's a great player and he’s all pumped to come back and be a factor in the game, which he always is. I thought Sherm was just there in so many instances and I just thought it was a stellar game for Richard as we all covered him pretty well today, but I thought that just really jumped out at me."
Sherman and the Seattle defense held the Cowboys to 97 yards passing and have now gone eight consecutive quarters without allowing a touchdown. Dallas' Cassel went 0-of-4 on passes thrown at least 10 yards downfield, including 0-of-3 when targeting Bryant. According to ESPN, it marked just the fourth time this season where a starting quarterback did not complete a pass of at least 10 air yards in a game.
"I just played a hard game," Sherman said of his day defending Bryant. "He’s a phenomenal receiver, one of the best receivers in this football league. We just battled it out today. I was able to get my hands on a few, he was able to get his hands on a few. That’s how these matchups go. I have great respect for that man and what he does and who he is as a player. You just want to battle, that’s all I did.”
Sherman's versatility has been put on display at multiple times this season. The former fifth-round pick saw time in the slot as the nickel corner in Week 1 against the St. Louis Rams and has moved away from his usual spot on the left side of the Seattle defense to shadow the opposing team's top receiving threat in recent weeks. Sherman did so in the team's Week 5 game against A.J. Green and the Cincinnati Bengals and two weeks later he shut down San Francisco's Torrey Smith in a Week 7 win over the 49ers.
But Sherman hasn't been lobbying to defend the likes of Green, Smith, and Bryant. He insists he's doing what the Seahawks coaching staff is asking of him.
"They asked me to take that matchup and go guard Dez wherever he is on the field," Sherman said. "So I did my best to help my team in that respect, and thankfully I was able to do my job effectively.”
One of Sherman's teammates, though - free safety Earl Thomas - voiced strong support this past week for Sherman blanketing the opposing team's top threat.
"Baller. I just told him, ‘I’ve never seen a nerd who can play football like that,’" Thomas said of the Stanford-graduate Sherman's day at Dallas. "This guy is unbelievable, man. Him and Kam [Chancellor], we’ve been together for so long, and I really lean on them. They pick me up."
One might think that matching up against some of the NFL's elite talent would help to bring out Sherman's best. Carroll said that simply isn't true when it comes to the hyper-competitive Seahawks cornerback.
"Richard’s always amped up," Carroll said. "He’s always jacked. This is a guy that’s one of the great competitors in the game. He doesn’t need to play a game like this to get him amped up, but he is there to rise to the occasion when he plays great players and he’s done that consistently. I was so proud of him today. He just competed exactly the way we want a guy to compete in situations like this.”
Tony Drovetto | Seahawks.com | November 1, 2015