Crabtree vs. Sherman
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady versus Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is considered football’s greatest individual rivalry right now, but even that lacks something. The reason is they play the same position, so it’s not like they’re even actually playing each other. They are each trying to navigate through each other’s defense more times than the other person.
There are few great rivalries between players who actually matchup against one another. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman versus 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree might be the best the game has to offer. After Crabtree made comments about Sherman before last year’s NFC Championship Game, Sherman responded emphatically when it mattered most. While covering Crabtree in the end zone in a one-score game on San Francisco’s final possession, Sherman leaped in front of Crabtree and swatted the ball away into teammate Malcolm Smith’s hands. The interception not only sealed the game and sent Seattle to the Super Bowl, but it made Sherman lose his mind. He delivered one of the scariest rants in recent memory to FOX reporter Erin Andrews afterwards, yelling: “I’m the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re going to get. Don’t you ever talk about me!”
He later added: “Crabtree. Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’ll shut it for you real quick. L.O.B. [Legion of Boom].”
Sherman played for Harbaugh at Stanford, but the 49ers chose to take defensive back Chris Culliver in the draft instead of the Pro Bowl defender. The Seahawks have reaped the rewards and one of the most divisive players in the game has become the face of the 49ers-Seahawks rivalry. Less than a week after the Super Bowl, Sherman poured some more gas on the fire while making an appearance on Discovery Channel’s “American Muscle.”
“It’s not going to be something that goes away,” Sherman said of the Crabtree rivalry. “I hope to play [Crabtree] every year for the rest of my career and choke him out. There’s not much else I can say about the subject. Nobody will understand it but him and me. That’s all that needs to [be understood].”
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They're in each other's way
All of the aspects I’ve already listed that make this rivalry so great mean nothing if the teams aren’t consistently winning. Cowboys-Redskins was great for years, but the Redskins haven’t won more than five games in a season since 1922. (I exaggerated a little) The same could be said for Packers-Bears, but when Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers tosses six touchdowns in a half like he did the last time they met, the rivalry is on life support.
The best rivalries in sports feature games that could go either way. They also play in games that mean something like last year’s NFC Championship, a contest that left an indelible impression on many fans. Sherman’s tipped pass to Smith in the final minute ended San Francisco’s shot at getting to a second straight Super Bowl. Seattle, meanwhile, went and crushed Manning and the Broncos, 43-8, to pick up the Seahawks’ first title.
Along with winning the Super Bowl last year, the Seahawks reached at least the divisional round of the playoffs in three of Carroll’s first four years. Harbaugh was the first coach in NFL history to take his team to three conference championship games in his first three seasons. Unfortunately for 49ers fans, San Francisco only won one of those before losing to the Ravens in the Super Bowl.
San Francisco also won back-to-back NFC West titles in 2011 and 2012 before Seattle used a 13-3 season to steal the division crown last year. The 49ers still used a wild-card berth to get to the NFC Championship.
“We both win, play each other twice, and it’s a dogfight,” 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said. “Our scores, even when they’re not close, aren’t indicative of the games. If neither team was winning, there wouldn’t be a rivalry and no one would care about watching.”
This is a rivalry that should last, too. Both rosters are comprised mainly of young, talented players and we know they’re well coached. This is just the beginning.
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There are few threads stringing together some of the NFL’s best rivalries right now. Without Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, Patriots-Broncos wouldn’t be a rivalry at all. The Steelers and Ravens play a lot of close games and are division foes, but their both slumped in mediocrity. The Packers just beat the Bears, 55-14, on Nov. 9 and despite Colt McCoy’s heroics in their last matchup, the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry hasn’t had much steam in the last decade.
There’s only one true rivalry between NFL teams right now and it has all the right ingredients. They hate each other, their coaches had shaky histories with one another before even coming to the NFL, their teams are built in mirror images of one another, they talk trash, and they play some of the most physical football in the league.
Oh yeah, and for the last three seasons, they’ve stood in each other’s way in a fight for conference supremacy. If you haven’t caught on yet, I’m talking about 49ers-Seahawks. They’ll meet tonight for the first time this season and I doubt there will be a whole lot of “Happy Thanksgiving. How is your family?” going on.
There will be a lot of hard hitting and jaws flapping. It’s one of those games where you’re kind of glad it’s at night so you can put the kids to bed because it might get rough. Don’t let either team’s record fool you, this game matters. The Seahawks edged the 49ers, 23-17, in last season’s NFC Championship Game and don’t think San Francisco has forgotten that. And don’t be surprised if they’re back there again this year.
Here is The Definitive History of the 49ers and Seahawks NFL Rivalry.
Follow Brett on Twitter at @bpoirierNB
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