SANTA CLARA -- Richard Sherman showed Monday that he still has a lot left in the tank. The 49ers cornerback's performance in the 27-23 loss to the New York Giants was one of his best of the season.
The acquisition of Sherman after surgery on his Achilles was one of the biggest stories of the 49ers' offseason. Would he be able to return to the level of play that made him a rarely targeted, shutdown corner? He has answered that question.
Up until Week 10, Sherman had quietly put together a solid season, but his value off the field was more recognized. He has been a role model and a coach for the young secondary and a leader in the 49ers' locker room.
Facing the Giants, the 30-year-old showed he’s more than his nickname, “Uncle Sherm.” He was targeted twice, allowing two receptions for 10 total yards. He made three solo tackles, two of which were of Giants running back Saquon Barkley.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan glowingly spoke about Sherman’s performance.
“I thought Richard had one of his best games last night,” Shanahan said in his Tuesday press conference. “I thought it was probably his best game of the year. I don't think it was a coincidence that it followed his best week of practice of the year.”
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It has taken some time for Sherman to get back to his old self -- getting more time off after the Thursday night game against the Raiders on Nov. 1 helped.
“I think Richard went through a big offseason of some big injuries he was overcoming,” Shanahan said. “And he battled hard to get through those. Had a number of setbacks and in training camp, when he did have that, that made it hard to practice a bunch."
“He got himself ready for Week 1 and played. I know he had to miss a few weeks as those injuries crept back. And he played through a bunch of stuff these last few weeks.”
The 49ers coach also explained how leading by example through his injuries is another valuable quality that Sherman brings to the table.
“The thing that's been great about Richard, just showing other guys how you can play through things when you're not 100 percent," Shanahan added. "And when you do, you've got to still play at a high level that helps you win, and he's done that in a number of situations.”
The cornerback's physical ability obviously is a key component to his success, but Shanahan explained there’s more to it than meets the eye.
“I think people say that because Richard is very talented and things like that,” Shanahan said. “But that's not what separates him from other people. Richard's game has a lot to do with what's upstairs. He's thinking a lot. He understands route combinations. It's hard to beat him on the same thing twice. You can get him once, but usually the second time it's a pick."
“That allows him to, I think he's in his eighth year. He's played seven years. By no means do I think he's at that stage yet where we're talking about him being old. But, as he does get there, and you start to lose a couple steps -- which happens to everybody -- the guys that have been successful because of more than just their ability are guys that usually can still play at a high quality even though their skills diminish. But I don't think he's there yet.”