Forget about DeMarco Murray going against the league’s best run defense. Or the Dallas Cowboys’ defense trying to slow down Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch.
The matchup everybody wants to see Sunday is Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant going against Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. They’re two stars in their prime and among the best at what they do.
They’re physical. They’re capable of making a highlight-reel play at any time. And they’re not scared to let their emotions show.
Sherman might be best known for his postgame rant about Michael Crabtree in the playoffs last season. Just this past week, he made headlines again when he said Washington’s Pierre Garcon “doesn’t matter in this league.”
Bryant, of course, is known for his emotional style on the field and the sideline that occasionally borders on meltdowns.
But neither of them had interest in starting a war of words before Sunday’s game. Each were given opportunities and declined.
Asked if Bryant matters in this league, Sherman told reporters: “He does. He matters a great deal.
“Dez is an incredible talent. Obviously his résumé speaks for itself, but he does a great job of getting open, playing the ball in the air. He made a fantastic play for them last week, which is indicative of what he can do when the ball is in the air.”
Bryant had similar praise for Sherman.
“Sherman is arguably the best corner in the league, an outstanding player,” Bryant said. “When you’re going up against a guy like that, you’ve got to be well prepared. You can’t go in lollygagging. It’s a great challenge.”
But it’s a challenge the Cowboys welcome.
They weren’t afraid to run right at J.J. Watt last week against the Texans, and coach Jason Garrett said they won’t shy away from throwing to Sherman’s side.
“If you got into that game with these guys, you wouldn’t really snap the ball,” Garrett said. “They have good players outside, they got good linebackers, they got good rushers, the free safety is fantastic. We have to go play. We have to do what we do.”
Said owner and general manager Jerry Jones last week on his KRLD/105.3 FM radio show: “We’re going to have to give him some business over there or we will hurt the balance of what we can do relative to certainly the passing game. We can’t run from him. That’s easy to say and hard to do. We got to challenge him.”
That means throwing the ball Bryant’s way even when Sherman is on him.
Bryant and Sherman won’t line up against each other every snap, as the Seahawks like to keep Sherman in his natural position on the left side of the field.
The only time Seattle has put Sherman exclusively on one receiver was in Week 2 last season, when he followed San Francisco’s Anquan Boldin all game. Boldin, who had 13 catches and 208 yards in the 49ers’ opener against the Packers, was held to only one catch for 7 yards by Sherman.
So expect Cowboys receiver Terrance Williams to face Sherman some Sunday afternoon, although Garrett made it clear that the Sherman-Bryant matchup would happen “a lot.”
“Obviously we have a lot of confidence in Dez,” Garrett said. “It’ll be a good matchup.”
So far this season, Sherman has been targeted 15 times, allowing seven catches for 100 yards and no touchdowns. The Packers opted to stay away from him in the season opener, but some teams have found success going against him with underneath routes.
In other words, don’t expect Bryant to have many, if any, jump-ball scenarios with Sherman as he did on the key play in overtime against Houston. That would play into Sherman’s strength.
“It’s kind of common sense he’ll be able to play the fade balls better than other stuff with his body type,” receiver Cole Beasley said. “He’ll be a little more susceptible to shorter, quicker guys and quick routes.”
At the end of the day, it should be an entertaining showdown between two of the biggest names in the game. Bryant just hopes he fares better than his last trip to Seattle, when he had only three catches for 17 yards, along with two punt returns for 2 yards, in 2012.
“Man, I didn’t have my best day,” Bryant said. “And I think the preparation wasn’t there. I could tell you that it’s a totally different mindset here in this locker room [this year]. Just how we’ve been working. Our approach. Our attitude. Everything is different.”
Tale of the tape
|Dez Bryant||Richard Sherman|
|1 (24)||Rd. drafted (overall)||5 (154)|
|5||Years in NFL||4|
|1 (2013)||Pro Bowls||1 (2013)|
|44 TDs||Notable career stat||20 INTs|
In their own words
On Sherman: “It’s a person that I have respect for; we have respect for one another. We’re just going to go out there and battle. He’s big, he can run, he’s got length. You’ve got to play big. You can’t just think you’re going to go in there and do this. You have to be well prepared.”
On talking trash: “That’s just the nature of the game. I’m pretty sure he’s going to say something to me. I’m pretty sure I’m going to say something to him. But at the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, we’re going to congratulate one another and talk and take pictures and get back on the plane and go our separate ways.”
On Bryant: “Dez is an incredible talent. Obviously his résumé speaks for itself, but he does a great job getting open, playing the ball in the air. He made a fantastic play for them last week, which is indicative of what he can do when the ball is in the air. He’s definitely physical throughout the route, especially in the red zone; they use him a lot on those fade balls, and he does a great job of creating separation and catching the ball with his hands.”
On countering Bryant’s strength: “There’s numerous ways; I’ll show you better than I can tell you.”
What the coaches are saying
Jason Garrett: “They’re going to go against each other. They’re going to go against each other a lot. We certainly have a healthy respect for him and really everybody on their defense and throughout their team. We have to go play our best football. There are a lot of great matchups in this game, all across our team. We find it exciting to see our guys play.”
Pete Carroll: “Dez is a great player, and our guys love playing against the best guys, and they get them every week. Every team has got tremendous players and they’re all unique in their own way, and Dez is certainly that. He garners tremendous respect from our guys.”
What teammates are saying
Tony Romo: “Sherman’s obviously playing at a high level. He’s got great hips. He’s got great length. His biggest attribute is probably his intelligence. I think he understands the game very well.”
Orlando Scandrick: “They’re going to battle each other. I think Rich obviously 6-[foot]-3, Dez is 6-2 and they stand almost eye to eye. Dez is a little heavier and Dez is strong and physical and plays the ball well. Rich is tall and plays the ball well. It will be an interesting game. It’s going to be two premier players in the NFL competing.
“I’m looking to see it too. As a football fan, you always want to see good football players go at each other.”
Terrance Williams: “Richard Sherman is a great player, but he has a job just like we do. Sunday, we just come out here to play football. There’s not going to be trash-talking from this way. I’m pretty sure he’s focused on his job and we’re focused on ours. Whatever happens, happens.”
Cole Beasley: “It’s definitely going to be exciting to see two of the best players in the game go at it.”
DeMarco Murray: “The one thing about Dez — he’s not afraid of anything or anyone. I’m sure he’s excited about the challenge and I’m sure it’ll be good.”