Malcolm Smith Is the Real Hero in Sunday's NFC Championship Game
With 30 seconds to go in Sunday’s NFC championship game, Richard Sherman made the play that’s only been overshadowed by his post-game theatrics.
He deflected a potential game winning touchdown pass intended for 49ers’ Receiver Michael Crabtree.
The crowd goes wild, he shoots his mouth off, he’s the best cornerback in the game … curtain down, and lights out … Richard Sherman is a hero. Right?
Not so fast, please.
If we just take that play for what it is, in a vacuum, Richard Sherman simply deflected a pass intended for the receiver he was covering, whom Sherman even said was a sorry receiver. It's a pass defended, nothing more. In fact, passes defended is one of the stats used to grade how well a defensive back is playing. Ultimately, Sherman did his job. He did what the Seattle Seahawks pay him big money to do … and everyone went gaga.
Malcolm Smith is the hero. If you watch NFL football, you probably see about two corner fade routes to the back pylon of the end zone each game. How often do you see a linebacker with 'trail' or 'underneath' coverage on that type of play? Almost never. In fact, the reason the quarterback will make that throw is because of the 1-on-1 match-up. Throw the ball up, and give his receiver a chance to make a big play.
Malcolm Smith, who is only seeing increased playing time due to an injury to starting right outside linebacker KJ Wright, is not supposed to be there. That pass, once tipped up by Richard Sherman, should’ve fallen harmlessly onto the turf.
Keep in mind that it was a first down pass by 49ers’ Quarterback Colin Kaepernick. If Smith is not there to save the day for the Seahawks, 'red zone' studs like Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis would’ve had up to three more shots into the end zone for the game-tying touchdown with the game-winning extra point. I don’t know about Seahawks fans, but given the dynamic playmaking ability of Kaepernick, Boldin and Davis, stopping three more attempts at a touchdown from the 18-yard line is not something I would lay my Super Bowl hopes on.
Malcolm Smith, the player who normally wouldn’t even be on the field in that situation -- in an area of the field where you never see a linebacker -- makes one of the biggest plays in Seattle sports history.