PHOENIX: Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis won’t face each other on the field Sunday, but the elite defenders will be measured against one another with the outcome of Super Bowl 49 the ultimate yardstick.
The two are the cream of the NFL’s cornerback corps.
Sherman, a key member of Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” defensive secondary, is a crucial part of the Seahawks’ bid for a second straight Super Bowl crown.
Revis is making his first Super Bowl appearance in his first season with the New England Patriots, after six campaigns with the New York Jets and one with Tampa Bay.
“It took eight years,” Revis said of finally reaching the NFL’s title showcase.
He endured two near-misses with the Jets, with back-to-back defeats in the AFC championship games. In 2012 he had to recover from a torn knee ligament.
To finally make it to the Super Bowl, he admitted, is “a sigh of relief.”
Many point to the Patriots’ beefed-up defense as a big reason for their return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2012.
The four-time All-Pro Revis notched 47 tackles with two interceptions and 14 passes defended in the regular season.
He endured a tough game in the second-round playoff win over Baltimore, but rebounded in the AFC title contest with an interception of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
Sherman amassed 57 tackles with four interceptions this season as he led a Seattle defensive secondary that allowed an NFL-low 185.6 passing yards per game.
Sherman got a little testy early in the week when asked to rate himself against Revis, but later said the endless comparisons should be considered flattering to defensive players often overshadowed by their offensive brethren.
“I think it says that the game’s changing a little bit,” Sherman said.
“I think it also says something to the level of play that we’re both playing at, and also how fantastic of a season we both must be having if we’re bringing that much attention to the game. It’s appreciated.”
Their style of play is different, in part because of different defensive schemes employed by their teams.
Sherman lines up almost always on the left side for Seattle, rather than focusing throughout a game on a particular receiver.
Revis is used in what New England call the “Revis Island” mode, to neutralize a single target, or as a floater covering multiple receivers.
“We play the game two different ways,” Sherman said. “He plays it more meticulous and more conventional on his technique. Mine is more unorthodox. So it’s two different styles to compare … both of them are effective.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the contrasts may grow out of the players’ physical differences, as well as strategy.
“What I’ve found over the years is that each guy has his own style because of their body makeup and their speed and their quickness and savvy and all of those things,” Carroll said.
Sherman has vowed he won’t be slowed on Sunday by the elbow injury he suffered in the fourth quarter of the Seahawks’ NFC championship overtime win over Green Bay.
But he’s got another possible distraction, with girlfriend Ashley Moss due to give birth to the couple’s first child in early February.
Sherman hopes he won’t have to decide whether to attend the birth or play in the Super Bowl.
“He’s going to do his father his first favor and stay in there for another week or two,” Sherman said.