As the Giants prepare for the Seahawks, they’re not only getting ready for one of the league’s elite, but also a squad that’s a polar opposite.
While the Giants (5-8) are one of the league’s flagship franchises and stand for history, legacy and ownership that will always allow just one voice, the youthful and brass Seahawks (11-2) are an outfit that thrive on emotion, a rah-rah atmosphere and encourages their players to exercise freedom of speech.
Other than their head coach, the fiery Pete Carroll, perhaps no other Seahawk embodies a confidence as high as Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman. A first-team All Pro, Sherman, 25, is a former Stanford star who came into the league with a sizeable chip on his shoulder after falling to the fifth round (154th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft. He’s known as one of the best cover corners in the league — and may also be the preeminent trash talker in the NFL.
Giants wideout Victor Cruz said he won’t pay Sherman’s mouth any mind, as he reasoned he’s more concerned with not allowing the physical Sherman (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) to manhandle him at the line of scrimmage.
“There’s nothing a defensive back can say that’s going to bother me, even if he talks all game, so I don’t have to prepare for that. I don’t really buy into it. It doesn’t faze me at all,” said Cruz. “He does a good job of getting his hands on you and moving his feet and doing some good things. He’s a very cerebral player. He understands routes and route combinations and stuff like that. It’s going to be a challenge ... but obviously it’s something that we can rise up to and be able to combat and it should be a good battle come Sunday.”
Sherman is tied for first on the team with four interceptions and is fifth with 32 solo tackles, so it shows he’s often around the ball. But he isn’t the only concern for the Giants, as the defense is ranked No. 1 in the league in total yards allowed (second in points allowed) due to stars at every level.
What separates Seattle from most every team in the league, though, is their secondary’s ability to match up man-to-man without the aid of gimmicks, zones or blitzes.
The Seahawks’ secondary is so physical and abnormally large for defensive backs (an average of 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds) that their “Legion of Boom” moniker arguably makes as much sense as any other nickname in the league.
“They just don’t make many mistakes,” noted Manning. “They play fast and they do everything pretty well.”
Antrel Rolle, himself an outspoken defensive back, added his two cents on his counterparts, expressing respect for his fellow gumflappers.
“I think their confidence is the key to their success, without a doubt,” said Rolle. “When you look at each and every position, I think they play with a lot of confidence. I think they play extremely fast, and more importantly, they play together. ... You can tell that they’re trusting the guy next to them.”
Big Blue notes ...
»Cruz leads the Giants with 71 catches for 973 yards. He needs just 27 yards to join Del Shofner, Homer Jones and Amani Toomer as the only receivers in Giants history with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
The Giants are merely playing for pride, but for the Seahawks, they’re playing for so much more. Currently the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, should Seattle win on Sunday, they’ll lock up homefield advantage for the postseason.
If the season ended today, the Giants would own the No. 12 pick in the 2014 draft, as they are one of four teams with a record of 5-8. They’d be behind the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans and ahead of the St. Louis Rams in draft order based on a more difficult strength-of-schedule tiebreaker. There are five teams with records of 4-9, so it is conceivable, with a 0-3 finish, the Giants could work their way up to the No. 5 pick. They haven’t had a top-10 pick since going No. 4 in 2004 (when they traded with the San Diego Chargers to get Manning), and before that, their most recent top-10 pick was 1997, when they took wideout Ike Hilliard at No. 7.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.