Instead of trying to force his way back onto the field earlier in the season and risk not being at 100 percent, 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman chose to take a more conservative approach and finally made his return to the field in Week 12. After a solid performance in an upset win over the Los Angeles Rams, the 32-year-old explained to reporters Friday why he elected to take his time recovering from a lingering calf issue.
"It was cool because we were able to get to the bottom of some deeper, underlying problems and get those corrected," Sherman said. "So that we didn't have anything in the future. So it sucked in terms of the time missed, but it helped in terms of the long-term prospects."
In Sherman's first game action since Week 1, the veteran tallied an interception and a pass deflection, as well as seven total tackles, including one for loss. His defensive coordinator, Robert Saleh, attributes Sherman's continued success to his cerebral understanding of the game.
"Sherm, for his whole entire career, has always won with mind over athleticism," Saleh told reporters Friday. "Not to say that he's not an athlete or anything, but he has always played the mental part of the game and that's why he's able to have that longevity. He is so far ahead of everybody with regards to scheme, technique, how to play certain things and the great ones always find the ball, whether they're in man coverage, zone coverage, it doesn't matter.
"They just find the ball and there's a reason why he has 40 interceptions in his career. You can try throwing his way, you just never know when he's going to be somewhere where he's not supposed to and that's from his film study and all the different work he puts into it."
Sherman and the 49ers' defense did enough to snap a three-game losing streak and continue their recent success over the Rams, but the challenges don't diminish this week as San Francisco will face the Buffalo Bills on Monday.
Stefon Diggs is Buffalo's top wideout, and already has 80 catches for 945 yards and four touchdowns through 11 games.
How the 49ers' secondary is able to contain the speed of Diggs, and the rocket arm of Bills quarterback Josh Allen, will be a critical part of keeping San Francisco in this game.
We'll see if Sherman can build off of last week's strong return to the lineup in primetime.