Last weekend, what we saw in the Seattle/San Francisco game was what playoff games are all about -- 2 teams, each with two of the best young quarterbacks in the league, two of the best running games in the league, and more importantly, two of the best defenses in National Football League.
What we saw on the field Sunday was the type of football the late Al Davis loved -- a Power Running game, a Quarterback-hunting defensive line, and cornerbacks that can play 60 minutes of man coverage (whether they should is debatable).
The biggest play of the game came down to one of the Seahawks' best players - Richard Sherman -- whose postgame comments have him being equated with words such as "thug", "ghetto", "cocky", "brash", "arrogant" and many more.
Regardless of his words, his play on the field is what each of the 32 NFL teams would love to have on their roster. He is a physical corner who can take away one side of the field and/or make one receiver disappear for the whole football game.One who makes all the plays required of him in order to win the game. A player who only gets better when the lights are brighter.
Richard Sherman defended a pass in the end zone that, had he not been there, would have given the 49ers the win. Not only did he bat the ball away, his tip kept the ball inside of the field of play which allowed for a teammate to intercept the ball while still in the air, thus ending any hopes the 49ers had of a come back win.
Unfortunately, he is not remembered for that defensive play. He is remembered for his two interview afterward in which he addressed comments that were made by Michael Crabtree during the game, and reprimanded Crabtree for what he was saying on the field, calling the receiver "mediocre" and a "sorry receiver."
With this came a massive response from fans, media personalities and players alike - racist comments have been made about Sherman by fans, media personalities have called him "classless", and players such as Tom Brady have said that his attitude would not be welcomed in his locker room.
To all this, my reply is THAT IS WHY YOU ARE NOT PLAYING IN THE SUPER BOWL.
Richard Sherman's attitude reminds me of the attitudes of all of the best playmakers that all great Super Bowl defenses have had -- that ONE PLAYER who everybody loves to hate.
The Arizona Cardinals in 2009 had Darnell Dockett. The Bears great 2006 defense had Brian Urlacher. The 2000 Ravens had Ray Lewis & Tony Siragusa - many Raiders fans still hate one or both of them. The 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers had Joey Porter. All of these players not only carried this attitude, but they all were playmakers who backed up their talk on the field.
The Raiders are a team that had been hated for decades by all of the NFL. Seldom in recent years have the Raider given the rest of the NFL something to really hate, but it cropped up some during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, when players like Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Rolando McClain, and Lamarr Houston were getting after quarterbacks, laying hits (some illegal) on opposing players, and bringing a general bad attitude to the field. They didn't make the playoffs but they came very close in those two seasons.
This team currently is missing an identity on defense. A playmaker with an attitude like Richard Sherman would help this defense out tremendously. Jason Tarver giving the middle finger to the refs, showed this attitude which many Raider fans loved. There is not a player on the team, with the exception of perhaps Lamarr Houston, Tyvon Branch, and Charles Woodson, who can embody this attitude and has the playmaking skills to back it up.
This Raiders need to return to having that kind of attitude - hunting the quarterback, dominating receivers, stopping runningbacks in their tracks, laying punishing hits on anybody who dares to cross the middle of the field, walk the talk, and make no apologies for it.
The attitude that Richard Sherman has is the kind of attitude that drew many of us to the Oakland Raiders, and it will take the same attitude to return the Raiders to greatness once again.