Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is one of the smartest players on the field at just about any given moment. He’s fully aware of the NFL rulebook at all times and understands the line between defensive holding, illegal contact and just downright great coverage (usually).
His knowledge of the game showed up on the Buffalo Bills’ final play Monday night on fourth-and-goal from the 15-yard line despite many blaming the officials for missing a presumably blatant call.
With the game on the line and the Bills trailing 31-25, Tyrod Taylor scrambled to his left, attempting to buy time to allow his receivers to come open. He unleashed a pass in the direction of Robert Woods in the middle of the end zone, but it was off-target and broken up by Earl Thomas. Game over.
On the near side of the field, Richard Sherman could be seen leveling a Bills receiver. At first glance, it looked as though the hit was blatantly obvious illegal contact. Had it been called, the Bills would have been given 5 yards and an automatic first down, thus extending the game. Only, it wasn’t a flag because Sherman is a defensive savant.
He wasn’t penalized because once the quarterback leaves the pocket, illegal contact against receivers is no longer enforced. That doesn’t mean DBs can grab and hold receivers, preventing them from breaking free, but making contact with them is perfectly legal. Sherman understood that rule – which many cornerbacks probably don’t – and used it to his advantage.
He responded to a tweet wondering why illegal contact wasn’t called.
The ball wasn’t thrown in his direction, nor was it going to be with Taylor rolling away from the play. Sherman recognized the opportunity to take out one of Taylor’s targets and used it to his advantage – legally.
Much will be made about the officials’ missed calls at the end of the first half, and of Sherman’s seemingly illegal play at the end of the game. While the former is debatable, the latter is not. It was a perfectly legal hit, and a brilliant play by one of the best cornerbacks in the league.