It was a football scene for football fans, rich with the crowd-pleasing elements that make the sport so popular.
Tension... passion... raw emotion... suspense. All on display amid an undercurrent of potential violence.
Oh, and the action on the field wasn’t bad, either.
During the third quarter of the Seahawks’ 26-24 victory Sunday, cornerback Richard Sherman went on a sideline tirade that rivaled anything seen since the late Buddy Ryan threw a right cross at fellow Houston assistant coach Kevin Gilbride.
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Said Sherman afterward: “Just a little miscommunication.”
Huh? A little miscommunication is what happens when you dial a wrong telephone number and, in any case, the communication was loud and clear. Sherman conveyed his anger with more animation than Donald Trump uses against Donald Trump’s critics.
While there was no confusion about what unhinged Sherman — the 36-yard pass Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw to wide receiver Julio Jones that gave Atlanta its first of three third-quarter touchdowns — the precise reason the play set him off remains vague.
Suffice to say a defensive audible that required newly signed strong safety Kelcie McCray to change coverage responsibilities — an audible installed in practice last week, specifically for the Falcons — did not find the Hawks in unison.
As the defense approached the sideline after the touchdown, Sherman threw down his helmet and began screaming at anybody and everybody. Defensive coordinator Kris Richard was a target, as was injured strong safety Kam Chancellor and a handful of others who’d volunteered to serve as intermediaries.
Sherman even yelled at Pete Carroll, and all Carroll did to enrage his star cornerback was appeal for calm. At that point, many head coaches — almost all of them, I suspect — are telling Sherman to sit on the bench for as long as it takes his head to clear.
Then again, Carroll is not like many head coaches.
“We’re emotional, it’s an emotional team, emotional guys, and we ride that emotion,” he said. “I’m not surprised. When we get that hot, we have to control it better so we don’t get in the way of what’s coming up.”
Which is what happened during the Falcons’ next two possessions. A defense that had dominated the first half appeared bewildered, allowing Atlanta to march 79 yards into the end zone on eight plays, and then 97 yards into the end zone on six.
“I think there was some impact,” Carroll admitted. “Guys were upset. We had to get through it, and we did.”
Steven Hauschka’s 44-yard field goal at the two-minute warning not only saved the day for the Seahawks, it saved a week of questions about whether a team with several strong personalities had been divided by the strongest personality.
Spared such unwelcome consternation, the Hawks echoed the theme of irrationality as bonding tool.
“You tell me a family that never gets in an argument,” said defensive end Cliff Avril. “I don’t know necessarily what the issue was, but we got past it and won the game. That’s all that matters. I’m sure you all would have made it a big deal if we hadn’t.”
A player who represents the face of the NFL’s best defense goes berserk on the sideline after a touchdown. His inability to compose himself contributes to the defense surrendering to two subsequent touchdowns.
Sherman’s meltdown wouldn’t have been just a big deal in Seattle. It would have been the first topic Monday on every talk show of every sports cable network.
“I’m a ballplayer,” Sherman summed up. “I play with passion.”
Turns out the Saturday night storm that was expected to uproot trees and flood basements around the Puget Sound arrived Sunday afternoon in the form of a one-man rant.
Call it Hurricane Richard.