Seattle Seahawks star cornerback Richard Sherman crossed paths with Dallas Cowboys star receiver Dez Bryant from time to time in the first half Sunday.
But that shifted into a regular duel after Seattle’s other starting cornerback — Byron Maxwell — went out with an ankle injury late in the half.
“He’s a great receiver,” Sherman said. “He’s going to win some, I’m going to win some. That’s a battle between two great players. Unfortunately, we didn’t come out with a win. That’s how it goes sometimes.”
Bryant ended the day with four catches for 63 yards as the Cowboys took a 30-23 win at CenturyLink Field.
Two of those catches came with Maxwell having apparent prime defensive responsibility. However, he was injured breaking up a pass intended for Bryant about five minutes before halftime. He limped to the sideline before being taken to the locker room on a cart.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said later than Maxwell suffered an ankle sprain, potentially a high ankle sprain. There was no immediate estimate on how long he will be out.
However, there was immediate short-term effect, as the Seahawks abandoned their usual philosophy of keeping Sherman on the left side and had him shadow Bryant whenever he lined up instead.
“You didn’t want to put the young guy in that kind of situation,” Sherman said. “That’s what you’ve got to do sometimes in games like that. He’s a great receiver. You don’t want to give him the matchup that he desires, so you switch things up sometimes.”
That “young guy” was cornerback Marcus Burley, a second-year pro out of Delaware, who filled the cornerback spot vacated by Maxwell.
“The coach called my number, and you just have to be prepared for times like this,” Burley said. “It was my time to go in.”
Sherman and Bryant ended up being paired 15 times. In those circumstances, Bryant was targeted seven times and made two catches, while Sherman was credited with one pass defended.
“I had yet to see them move Sherman around,” Dallas quarterback Tony Romo said. “… They kind of tracked Dez , and they hadn’t done that before. That was a little out of character for them.”
While Sherman won his share of individual duels, the Cowboys found enough air and ground success when they needed it. Romo completed 21 of 32 passes for 250 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Meanwhile, running back DeMarco Murray gave the secondary more to worry about while carrying 29 times for 115 yards and the final go-ahead touchdown. Murray also led Dallas with six receptions for 31 yards.
Dallas’ key offensive dagger may have come on a third-and-20 in the middle of the fourth quarter, when Romo scrambled out of trouble and completed a 23-yard pass to wide receiver Terrance Williams. Seattle challenged the ruling, but the replay confirmed Williams got both feet down inbounds. The play kept alive the drive that finally pushed the Cowboys ahead for good.
“They made a crazy conversion,” Seattle safety Earl Thomas said. “We just didn’t do enough. Even when our offense is not clicking, we still have to stand up if we want to be the defense that we say we are.”