The Minnesota Vikings continue their gauntlet run of playoff-caliber teams to end the season this week as they host the Seattle Seahawks. They have represented the NFC in the Super Bowl the past two seasons and even though they are currently just 6-5 at this point in the season the Vikings know that they will have their hands full this weekend.
Since Pete Carroll took over as the team’s head coach in 2010, defense has been the focal point for the Seahawks. The “Legion of Boom” is the No. 4-ranked defense in yards per game allowed this season (324.9) and are tied for first in the NFL for touchdowns allowed (11).
Their secondary has been the strength of that defense and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater – averaging 207 passing yards per game – knows he is going to have his hands full, especially when it comes to cornerback Richard Sherman, who is arguably the best cornerback in the NFL.
“He’s a great player, he’s a great athlete, he’s very smart, he understands routes, he understands concepts,” Bridgewater said of Sherman. “We know that we’re going to get his best. He’s been playing some great football ever since he arrived in this league. We know it’s going to be a challenge for four quarters.”
The second-year quarterback said the offense always has to be aware of where Sherman is at, but at the same time it seems like the team is not going to shy away from him and let Sherman completely dictate the game. They are still going to take their chances against him, even if they are few and far between.
One of the players who is likely going to be asked to go up against Sherman multiple times throughout Sunday’s game is rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Since playing his first game in Week 3 he has become one of Bridgewater’s favorite targets and has already said that he is always excited for a challenge.
“You don’t play faces, you play just his jersey or number,” Diggs said about going up against Sherman. “As far as going out there and competing, you’ve got to compete at a high level. As far as me and what I’m going to bring to the table, I’m going to do the same thing I do every week – just go out there and do everything I can.”
Even though Sherman has primarily stuck to the left side of the field for a majority of his career, he has started playing both sides and shadowing receivers more often. Last Sunday he shadowed Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, who many would argue is the best receiver in the NFL, and shut him down for most of the game.
Brown recorded six receptions on 12 targets for 51 yards last Sunday. That equaled out to an average of 8½ yards per reception, far below his current average of 14 yards per reception.
The Vikings don’t have a receiver of Brown’s caliber on their roster, but that doesn’t mean they are planning on backing down from the challenge of facing Sherman and the rest of the Seahawks secondary.
“You’re always looking at matchups and aware of certain guys,” head coach Mike Zimmer said when asked about going against Sherman. “It doesn’t matter really the position, how you can affect the game, things that you can do to work different areas. I said this earlier; I have a lot of respect for him and really their whole defense. Their defense is really good, but we kind of like how we do things and we just do them. We’re not going to back down from a challenge I guess is the best way to say it.”