SEATTLE -- When Richard Sherman gave Michael Crabtree a pat on the backside, got shoved in the face and made a choke sign toward the San Francisco bench, he was just getting warmed up.
Get ready for two more weeks of the unfiltered Sherman with the Seattle Seahawks headed to the Super Bowl.
I hadn t gotten many opportunities all game and I m happy. I m happy about that, Sherman said. I m sure if our team knew it was going to come down to a play like that they would be pretty confident going into it.
Sherman stole the attention on Sunday, first by deflecting a pass intended for Crabtree in the corner of the end zone with less than a minute left, right into the arms of Seattle teammate Malcolm Smith to seal the Seahawks 23-17 win.
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But then came the antics and Sherman s words that revealed a deep dislike for Crabtree and satisfaction in Seattle knocking off its division rivals to reach the Super Bowl.
While Smith was celebrating the interception, Sherman exchanged words with Crabtree, got shoved in the face as a rebuttal then made a choking gesture toward the San Francisco bench that he said was intended for quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Asked about the incident afterward by Fox reporter Erin Andrews, Sherman lit up Twitter with a rant that began: I m the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that s the result you gonna get. Don t you ever talk about me!
Sherman didn t back down even after getting some time to collect his thoughts. He apologized to Andrews, then proceeded to call Crabtree mediocre, making sure to enunciate each syllable of the word.
I was making sure everybody knew Crabtree was a mediocre receiver, Sherman said. And when you try the best corner in the game with a mediocre receiver that s what happens.
It was a fiery, emotional rant from Sherman, who celebrated his first conference title by racing around the field after Russell Wilson took the final knee, then leaping into the first row of seats in the south end zone to celebrate with fans.
I know how passionate he is about the game of football. He said to me before the game it s going to come down to us making big plays. We ve got to do it. Somehow we ve got to find a way to make big plays, said teammate Doug Baldwin. (Sherman) has been doing it all season. He is arguably the best cornerback in the NFL. They were trying to stay away from him the whole game. Eventually they were going to have to go his way and eventually they did and they made a mistake.
Sherman was rarely targeted by San Francisco, with most of the throws going toward Sherman s teammate Byron Maxwell. But when Kaepernick had to make a throw in the final seconds, he decided to challenge the All-Pro.
Sherman stayed with Crabtree, leaped and batted the ball into the air with his left hand. That allowed Smith to run underneath and make the interception that clinched the victory. It was San Francisco s third turnover in the fourth quarter.
I knew if I tipped it high enough someone would get there, Sherman said.
Sherman then ran over to Crabtree and gave him a pat on the backside, then appeared to extend his arm for a handshake. Instead, Sherman got shoved in the face before picking up his personal foul as his celebration continued.
Sherman made a good play. That s probably the only play he made all game, Crabtree said. I ain t getting into that, he knows what time it is. When we re on the field, he ain t doing nothin . That s one play, you know what I m saying? ... He s a TV guy, I m not a TV guy. I play ball.
Sherman said his issues with Crabtree go back to something that happened during the offseason. He would not go into detail about what happened.
He said something personal face to face, Sherman said. He knows what he said and he knows I m going to be tough on him the rest of his career.
UPDATE: After cooling down, Richard Sherman responded to his critics in a column for Sports Illustrated titled To Those Who Would Call Me a Thug or Worse... :