The 13th Man

'Next man up' might be an overused sports cliché, but it's also the reason my Seahawks are going to beat the 49ers. Meet my defensive backfield partner Byron Maxwell, whose strong play has us on the brink of Super Bowl XLVIII

By
Richard Sherman
· More from Richard·
Byron Maxwell has started the past six games at cornerback for the Seahawks, with 13 passes defensed and four interceptions over that span. (Rod Mar/SI)
Byron Maxwell has started the past six games at cornerback for the Seahawks, with 10 passes defended and four interceptions over that span. (Rod Mar/SI)

Winning in the NFL has more to do with survival than it does talent. The best teams in the league are only as good as the guys on the bottom of the depth chart who you’ve never heard of, who get called on when injuries and suspensions transform rosters in midseason. They’re the guys who find themselves covering Michael Crabtree or Anquan Boldin in the NFC Championship Game, and sometimes they make the difference between winning and losing.

For the Seahawks, Byron Maxwell is that guy. And he’s one of the many reasons I believe we’ll not only survive, but also dominate on our way to the Super Bowl.

Let’s rewind.

The week of our first game against San Francisco in Week 2, my now-suspended Pro Bowl teammate Brandon Browner was out with a hamstring injury. More-than-capable corners Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond would replace him on the right side, but I felt I needed to step up. With Crabtree out for the Niners, I requested to shadow Anquan Boldin with the intent of shutting him down. One week after catching 12 balls in a win, Boldin finished with one catch, and we won 29-3.

Ten weeks later, Maxwell—who was drafted two rounds after me in 2011 and has been my roommate ever since—was starting for the first time in place of Browner against the Saints here in Seattle. We suited up and the 12th man had our ears ringing. He came over to me, jumping up and down, and said, “Man, I’m feeling good.” I said, “Let’s go make a play.” Early on, Brees tried to throw a wheel route to Jimmy Graham and Maxwell peeled off his receiver and broke it up. He celebrated; he turned up.

That’s when I really knew we wouldn’t miss a beat with Maxwell in the lineup.

The play of entrenched starter Richard Sherman (left) and fill-in cornerback Byron Maxwell helped the Seahawks have the No. 1 overall team defense and pass defense in the NFL this season. (Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)
The play of entrenched starter Richard Sherman (left) and fill-in cornerback Byron Maxwell helped the Seahawks have the No. 1 overall team defense and pass defense in the NFL this season. (Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)

You see, when you’re an inexperienced cornerback playing against the best quarterbacks in the NFL, you know you’re going to get picked on. And there are two ways you can go about it: You can be nervous. You’ll wonder how you’re going to react. Guys ask themselves: What am I going to do if the ball comes? What happens if they keep catching balls on me?

Or you can go in there and say: I understand what they want to do on first down, second down and third down. I understand their concepts, their plays and their formations. I’m going to be aggressive and put myself in a position to make plays. That’s the mentality that Maxwell has. Like Earl Thomas always says, Maxwell gets “lost in the game.”

That kind of hard-headed, singular thought is what separates great players from good players. Throughout each of our careers, we have our abilities questioned one way or another. Maxwell came into the NFL stiff—literally. He couldn’t touch his toes while standing. So he took up hot yoga and has been dedicated to it for three years. He even finds a way to do it in road cities. Sometimes before he goes to bed on the road he’ll do the poses right there in the room—Crouching Camel or whatever it’s called. He’s proud of it. It got him through shin, hamstring and shoulder injuries that kept him off the field while I was able to earn a role. The way he feels about yoga is the way I feel about film study, because I know I’m not the best athlete playing corner in the NFL.

Maxwell is part of the reason we’ll survive this marathon season for one more week.

Everybody comes into this league with a weakness, just like each team enters the season with holes in its roster. The trick is turning those weaknesses into strengths. That’s what Byron Maxwell gave us.

At this point, he’s well-prepared, and he’s playing as well as any corner in the NFL. He understands that when you begin to change things because the stage is bigger and the lights are brighter, you start making mistakes. So he’ll approach the NFC championship the same way he approaches every game.

It’s the reason I won’t be asking to shadow any one player when the 49ers come here Sunday, and it’s part of the reason we’ll survive this marathon season for one more week.

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147 comments
HughJardonn
HughJardonn

Going into this SB game, Seattle has one possible advantage; the weather. If, by way of the NFL geniuses putting this one in NY without a cover, this one is played in bad weather, then Peyton and Co might be slowed down in the elements and it may turn into another slobberknocker, wgich probably favors the Seahawks. If the weather is decent and Manning gets going with those receivers --- Peyton ain't Colin Kaepernick.

badbeatya
badbeatya

First the experts said that Drew Brees and Coach Payton, armed with the knowledge and experience gleaned from their recent regular season loss and their prior playoff loss at CenturyLink, would implement the necessary changes to win in their playoff rematch.

Seemingly not wanting to give the Seahawks the respect they earned during the regular season and in the Divisional round, the experts then predicted that the 49ers would keep rolling through the playoffs and defeat Seattle, despite the fact that Colin Kaepernick's worst games have come courtesy of the Seahawks defense.

So now, we'll hear about how the Seahawks will not be able to contend with the Broncos high-powered offense, led by Peyton Manning's Nebraskan cadence.  After all, the game is at a neutral field and Peyton Manning is having a historic season.

Well, here is the minority report: Seattle's defense is much more polished and capable than both the Chargers' and Patriots' squads.  They will stalk and harass Peyton Manning while severely hampering his receiving options.  As the saying somewhat goes, 'Offense wins games.  Defense wins Championships.'  

The LOB don't hate, they come with respect as they DOMINATE. GO HAWKS!  

TeamPlayer
TeamPlayer

Sherman needs to check his childish temper. Regardless of the game thy won!!! What a bad role model. Why trash talk the other team. Hmm ghetto.

WillieFynduu
WillieFynduu

Didn't realize until the game was being played that Seattle's 13th man was the referees. Good title for a game that was corruptly called.

Tyler8
Tyler8

Nice column Rich. Lookin forward to the game tomorrow. Hope the Hawks piss off a lot of people! SUPERBOWL! SUPERBOWL!

supertek65
supertek65

Oh he also seems like a good kid, I like the trash talk, I loved kaepernick mocking cam newton.

supertek65
supertek65

Sherman is an excellent player.

He does hold on almost every play against top receivers. They call quite a bit of them. Miss a lot. Seahawks are the most penalized team in the nfl. Not a good stat, may keep them out of the superbowl??

RobertCassis
RobertCassis

I'm wearing my 41 jersey right now.  I think Maxwell is the real deal!

RudolphSchmidt
RudolphSchmidt

as a trained physician, i have a hunch that the human body will react to the steroids the same way it reacts to the other drugs--develop TOLERANCE!  the copious amounts of the steroids that coach carol has been pumping into his players will Backfire and Not Work this sunday.  mark my words friends (and foes LOL).

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

This dude is a ham.  His top five "smartest" QB Mr. Andrew Luck just got done throwing 7 interceptions in two playoff games.  In that same article he stated that the days of teams winning postseason games with defense and your QB throwing for 200 yards is over.  They beat NO despite Wilson passing for barely 100 yards. 


Sherman is a great cornerback, probably the best in the league right now.  He also has diarrhea of the mouth. 

RudolphSchmidt
RudolphSchmidt

richard sherman was my lab partner in Chem 11A at stanford.  he was a smart but peculiar fella.  very charming and gregarious one moment then without as much as a warning lash out at this other lab mate who was a business major who just wanted to try her hand at chemistry to broaden her horizon.  i surmise richard looked down on her because she was a business major.  anyway my lab partner richard was never prepared for the labs during the football season because the labs were on mondays and he played his football games on saturdays.  but i never judged him i say NEVER because i knew it was hard to be a good student athlete especially after away games.

thomasoverley
thomasoverley

dang the press is really trying to get everyone to hate the seahawks

RudolphSchmidt
RudolphSchmidt

pete carol must make his kids sleep in one bedroom.  no way there's enough space in his living room to store all that steroids for 53 grown man.

RudolphSchmidt
RudolphSchmidt

pete carol must make his out of town guests stay at the radisson.  no way there's enough space in his living room to store all that steroids for 53 grown man.

RudolphSchmidt
RudolphSchmidt

pete carol must park his car in the driveway.  no way there's enough space in his living room to store all that steroids for 53 grown man.

ProfessorGriff
ProfessorGriff

wish the Cowboy's players took this approach with game day preparation

lancelee2
lancelee2

I happen to be a Seahawks fan, but regardless I always enjoy Sherman's articles. There is nothing easy about writing articles like this, and I think he does a very good job. He is a bit full of himself, but I doubt if that is a rare thing is professional sports.

Gary34
Gary34

The Seahawks have been using more than13 players. They own the refs and hold receivers most of the time without a flag.

samiaminseattle
samiaminseattle

Oh good lord. Come on Hawks, win this game so we don't have to listen to the Forty-whiners like Vickie.

BrandonThomas
BrandonThomas

@TeamPlayer  Did you even read this article? It's very well written and articulate.  You're the one that's sounding a bit childish.

sox13
sox13

@Tyler8 good prediction. not happy and pissed off, but got to give the seabirds their props. your team

looks like they could do it. wilson may not have had a great game, but he is a very good quarterback and has the natural ability combined with instinct and athleticism that will keep him in the league for many years. w

BigSchtick
BigSchtick

@RudolphSchmidt

No hawk has had a steroid suspension. As a trained physician I assume you know the difference between marijuana, Adderall and steroids. Then again we both know you are not  a DR or a comedian. I suspect it is simply a lonely man living in some basement.

Now if you want to talk about  Roids look for symptoms like Boldin and Harbaughs rage moments.

tlee2si
tlee2si

@RudolphSchmidtThere is no undergraduate "business major" at Stanford.  Cal?  Yes.  Stanford?  No. 

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@RudolphSchmidt And especially when you go from the "academics" of Dominguez HS to Stanford.  I can only imagine poor Richard trying to hack it in his classes when he left the 12th grade barely able to spell his own name.

DustinSylvia
DustinSylvia

At least get the grammar correct. It's those steroids not that steroids. You sound like an uniformed moron.

BigRoundDad
BigRoundDad

A bit? The classless punk couldn't be more full of himself.

DustinSylvia
DustinSylvia

@Gary34. Are you insinuating that normally a team has 13 players on the field and the Hawks are using more than that? You do understand how many people are allowed in the field correct? So if you said they're using more than 11 players I get you but I'm confused and just writing you off as another naive "sports" fan.

pk_sea
pk_sea

@Gary34 Thank you Paul Allen. We really appreciate that you are the most wealthy of the NFL owners. Keep those payments to the refs coming. It really makes those 40-Vaginer fans mad. Geaux Hawks!

Cracka
Cracka

@samiaminseattle 

Wait a minute, who's going to be whining when the 49ers win? 

It surely won't be the 49ers when they DO win.

RudolphSchmidt
RudolphSchmidt

@BigSchtick@RudolphSchmidt"As a trained physician i assume you know the difference between marijuana, Adderall, and steroids...."  where did you go to med school compadre?  you and i should stick together like black actors lol!

BigSchtick
BigSchtick

@Reedster2185 All you post is negative BS and hate.  Then again you get called out on it all the time.

God forbid an educated black man, an athlete on top of that, right? Call Sherman whatever you want, but he is anything but stupid. Carry on hater.

RudolphSchmidt
RudolphSchmidt

@tlee2si@RudolphSchmidt   howdy there tlee2Si.  thank you for catching my memory laps.  i forget to take ALL my medicines in the morning, the operative word being ALL lol.  i meant to say this gal was a political science major.  i try to present the facts as straight as the arrows but sometimes the old noggin remembers what it wants lol.  have a good day (or afternoon wherever this message finds you) and i THANK you for your interest.

RudolphSchmidt
RudolphSchmidt

@BigSchtick@RudolphSchmidthowdy big schtick it's nice to meet you here.  as an aspiring stand up comedian i'm always looking for constructive criticism.  your comment has been mentally noted and will be drawn upon when called for.  i thank you again for your input.

RudolphSchmidt
RudolphSchmidt

@Ilovemesomeme@RudolphSchmidtit's funny you say that because good ol' richard did struggle with the spelling but i always HELPED him.  he was quite a wrapper too but it didn't exactly translate to Chemistry, i guess being in palo alto didn't help either lol.  boy we had some good times i say good times!

RudolphSchmidt
RudolphSchmidt

@DustinSylviahi there dustin thank you for your interest.  i keep a dictionary near me but sometimes i get too excited about my ideas that i forget to spell check everything and i THANK you for pointing them out for me.

whattheF
whattheF

@pk_sea @Gary34 40-Vaginer….hilarious. Did you think of that all by yourself? 

And what's up with the "Geaux"…are the Seahawks now Cajun??

pk_sea
pk_sea

@whattheF @pk_sea @Gary34 Yes, but nobody on the current roster has. It's pretty much a mute point. The Steelers have won 6 and their fans waive around a stupid towel. 

whattheF
whattheF

@pk_sea @whattheF @Gary34 Don't think fans need instructions on how to cheer for a team that's won 5 Superbowls, but nice try. Perhaps you would like some of those instructions, as you are still trying for your first.

pk_sea
pk_sea

@whattheF @pk_sea @Gary34 It is pretty funny, huh. 40-Vaginers is really about their fans. You know, the fans that need instructions on how to cheer for their team?

Geaux Hawks is just fun as it also pisses off the bountygate team's fans. 

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