How Richard Sherman Won the NFL Cornerback Battle

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) intercepts a pass intended for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) during the first half of the NFL football NFC Championship game Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015, in Seattle. Credit: David J. Phillip / AP


That was Richard Sherman last January. He was a brooding, bombastic baddass after he caused the game-clinching interception that sent the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl.

Right after that nuclear interview with Fox's Erin Andrews, Sherman and the Seattle Seahawks mauled the Broncos in one of the most lopsided games in Super Bowl history. In the months following the win, Sherman's excellent adventure included an appearance on the cover of Madden 15 and a four-year, $56 million extension that briefly made him the highest paid cornerback in the league.

Two weeks later, division rival Patrick Peterson got a $70 million deal from Arizona, making him No. 1.

In September, Men's Journal profiled Sherman and Peterson's prickly relationship and their standing among an elite group of new-age corners changing the NFL with size, speed, and strength not typically found at their position. Paul Solotaroff reported that — with New England's Darrelle Revis and Cleveland's Joe Haden — the big four are "a Darwinian retort to what's happened across the line of scrimmage, where suddenly every other team starts a 6-foot-5 small forward at receiver."

The big four corners loomed large this past season, often forcing opposing QBs to look elsewhere for receivers.

Peterson's Cardinals looked like contenders for most of the year, but, bitten by bad luck with quarterback injuries, they fell short in the playoffs. He finished the year with three picks for the No. 24 defense in the league. Haden also had three picks and was second in the league with 20 passes defensed — the most of the big four — but the Browns, eighth in the league in pass defense, didn't make the playoffs. Revis, the oldest of the bunch at 29, is still a human eraser. He batted away 14 balls this year, forced a fumble, and had two INTs for the AFC Champion Patriots.

But going into Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona, Sherman has emerged as the most lethal of those big-time ballhawks.

He had four INTs this season for Seattle, the top-ranked defense in the league for two years running. He's logged a pick per game in the playoffs this winter and the interception he snagged on the opening drive in the wild NFC Championship Game against Green Bay sparked a seismic reaction from the crowd that nearby earthquake monitors picked up.

Now Sherman, who is a bit banged up, and the Seahawks are back in the Super Bowl. Standing in their way of becoming the first back-to-back champs in more than a decade is the last team to win two in a row — the New England Patriots.

So in addition to a world title on the line, there are some bragging rights up for grabs, too. Seems there are always bragging rights when Sherman is involved.

The last time these teams played, Oct. 14, 2012, Seattle came back from being down 13 with eight minutes to play. Rookie QB Russell Wilson pulled out a 24-23 win, and, as you can imagine, the Patriots were not happy about blowing it. After the game, which Sherman says featured all kinds of trash talk, the Seattle corner burned Tom Brady on Twitter with a doctored photo of him yelling "U Mad Bro?" at the sulking QB.

Super Bowl XLIX will be their first meeting since that game and since that tweet.

Who's going to be mad this time? The Patriots aren't fans of Sherman's and neither is Revis, the Patriots own shutdown artist who once called him a "girl" on Twitter. Revis, like many, are turned off by Sherman's mouth. His harshest critics said he represented the worst of professional sports in the Erin Andrews interview. That he had no class. That he was a thug.

But in uttering those seven dirty words — I'M THE BEST CORNER IN THE GAME! — he was also a prophet. 

Because a year later, he may really be the best after all.