On Thursday night, the Packers put their best two receivers on the side of the field where Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman doesn’t line up. Thus, while coach Mike McCarthy claims that his team didn’t deliberately avoid Sherman, allowing the team’s best cornerback to cover Green Bay’s No. 3 receiver naturally made Jarrett Boykin a far less attractive target.
“I don’t think you ever make a conscious decision not to throw to one side of the field,” McCarthy said Friday, via ESPN.com. “Frankly, it was more of a decision to put Jordy [Nelson] on the left and see if he would come over and play him. They played their defense and obviously they did a heck of a job. I’m sure they feel good about where they are today.”
It’s already known that Sherman stays on the left side of the defense, covering the receiver aligned to the right. So the Packers shouldn’t have been surprised that Sherman stayed where he always plays.
“Obviously we liked the matchup on the other side, and if they wanted to bring [Sherman] over we were going to put him in an uncomfortable spot,” Nelson said. “They stayed with their defense, which I was expecting the whole time. We made some plays. I think if we hit the touchdown between Aaron [Rodgers] and I early in the game, it’s a different story.”
Of course, one touchdown wasn’t going to make up a 20-point deficit. While Green Bay’s strategy to avoid Sherman’s side of the field allowed Nelson and Randall Cobb to get better matchups, the Packers still lost. And the Seahawks have no problem with a team putting a lesser wideout against Sherman and never throwing that way.
“If the team lets you know they’re not throwing the ball to one side of the field that helps everybody that’s playing pass defense,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Friday. “If it’s not going over there, it’s going over here. If they would tell you before the game they were throwing it over here, that helps you. It’s just simply that. You know where the ball is going. We can’t bank on that totally, but after a while in a game it’s pretty clear.”
It’s not yet clear whether other teams will try the same approach. Some No. 1 receivers won’t want to avoid Sherman. Some will want to challenge him, especially if multiple weeks go by with Sherman facing off against lesser talents.