Richard Sherman continues to impact this Seahawks season--even though he’s hasn’t played in it for almost two months.
Sherman’s teammate Justin Coleman has been a revelation for Seattle as its new nickel defensive back this season. He was all that and more Sunday at Dallas, producing the best moment of spontaneity, brilliance and comedy in Seattle’s trying season on Christmas Eve.
Coleman said Sherman, the All-Pro cornerback currently on injured reserve with Christmas lights wrapped around his walking boot and repaired Achilles tendon, is the reason why he jumped into a giant Salvation Army kettle behind the end zone Sunday in Arlington, Texas, to celebrate his game-turning interception return for a touchdown.
Coleman’s pick--and leap into the pot--cooked the Cowboys. His interception of Dak Prescott and 30-yard return untouched to the end zone gave Seattle the lead for good at 14-9 in its 21-12 win at Dallas that has the Seahawks still in playoff contention.
Seattle (9-6) needs a win this Sunday at home over Arizona (7-8) plus Carolina (11-4) to win at Atlanta (9-6) at the same time Sunday afternoon to advance to the postseason for the sixth consecutive January.
“I’d already pre-planned it,” Coleman said with big grin over blaring rap music in the Seahawks’ locker room in Texas Sunday evening. “I told the guys if I get a pick-six in that end zone, I’m going to jump in the kettle and throw the ball out. It didn’t matter.
“Earlier in the season (Sherman) kept telling me that I didn’t have a celebration, that I needed a celebration. That’s the first thing that came to my mind: ‘Oooohh, we are in Dallas. I see the kettle. Yeah, it’s about time for me to do something.’
“I need to find Richard. He didn’t get off me for that.”
Teammate Frank Clark said he knew Coleman was about to jump into the kettle. That’s why he was there pounding on its sides in celebration of the score and his funny act.
“Yeah,” Clark said. “And I saw him run right to it. That’s why I met him there. That was a huge play, man...
“He was the kettle. I was the drum.”
Coleman got an unsportsmanlike-conduct foul for his kettle leap, part of the NFL’s rule against using standing structures as a prop to celebrate plays. Whatever. It was one of the funniest--and reviving--plays of the Seahawks’ season, with Coleman knowing ‘tis the season for merriment.
All Seahawks have reasons to celebrate the 24-year-old Coleman right now.
The Super Bowl-champion New England Patriots discarded him the first week of September. They traded the defensive back they were about to cut the day before the league’s deadline to set 53-man rosters for the regular season to Seattle. The Seahawks sent the Patriots a seventh-round draft choice. It’s turned out to be one of general manager John Schneider’s better moves in year some have backfired.
The Seahawks gave running back Eddie Lacy for $2,865,000 guaranteed; he was a healthy inactive again at Dallas. They guaranteed left guard Luke Joeckel $7 million coming off reconstructive knee surgery, then watched him recover from a second knee surgery that cost him six weeks in the middle of the season. By November, Seattle was in such salary-cap hell it cut future Hall-of-Fame pass rusher Dwight Freeney a few weeks after signing him and promoted rookie wide receiver David Moore to take Freeney’s roster spot just to save about $200,000. Moore has been inactive for as many games this season as you’ve been.
Yet it’s the overlooked, minor trade for a third-year reserve defensive back that has been as impacting as any move this spring, summer and fall for the Seahawks.
Schneider had signed Coleman to Seattle’s practice squad for three days early in his rookie season of 2015 before New England signed him to its active roster. Soon after the trade and this second stint with the Seahawks, Coleman took Jeremy Lane’s job as the fifth, nickel defensive back inside against slot receivers on passing downs. Often, he’s essentially a starter; some games Seattle plays nickel as much as three-fourths of the time.
He’s closed quickly on passes his way. He’s ripped balls from receivers’ mitts to break up receptions. He’s made tackles in the open field. He’s blitzed decisively and pressured quarterbacks. His huge play at Dallas was his second interception return for a touchdown this season.
I made the mistake of asking Coleman Sunday if his season is perhaps exceeding his expectations, given the former University of Tennessee cover man joined a new defensive system and program in Seattle days before the opening game.
“Exceeding my expectations?” the undrafted freee agent for Minnesota in 2015 said, his voice and eyes rising incredulously at me.
“Man, I’ve got some high expectations, now.
“No, I definitely feel like I’ve got a long ways to go. And this team’s got a long ways to go. But we are going to keep moving forward.”
Coleman’s first interceptions for a touchdown sparked the Seahawks’ Oct. 1 rally past Indianapolis. I made another mistake that night, writing Coleman was a “fringe player” on this team.
He is not that. He’s become vital. With the Seahawks’ season on the line at Dallas Coleman played 63 percent of the defense’s 76 snaps. That’s how much they were in nickel defense. Again.
“He’s had a terrific year for us,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Again, I go back to John figuring out his guys, picking him out of the numbers of guys that are out there that could fit us and do well. Ad he did a terrific job for us (Sunday).
“He’s been good for us all year.”
Now Coleman has a chance to help extend Seattle’s season into the playoffs again. Seahawks-Cardinals and Panthers-Falcons each start at 1:25 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.
“The only thing we can do is keep pushing forward, keep grinding and get the win next week,” Coleman said. “Get ready for playoffs whenever it comes."