SANTA CLARA -- Richard Sherman plays left cornerback in the 49ers' defensive scheme. He doesn’t shadow receivers, but moved around a bit early in Sunday’s NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers. He was tracking Davante Adams for a little while to give the Packers something else to think about, but he eventually locked in on the left.
He still matched up with Adams at times, including a fourth-quarter play where Adams beat him badly on a 65-yard bomb down the sideline.
That was a real rarity. Sherman doesn’t get targeted much, and almost never gets torched like that. But, as usual, the veteran cornerback had the last laugh.
He intercepted another deep volley intended for Adams that sealed a 37-20 victory over the Packers that sent the 49ers to the Super Bowl.
After a raucous postgame celebration where he got a little emotional, Sherman took us all through that play.
“They ran a corner post. We were in quarters coverage,” Sherman said. “I just kept running. I knew it wasn't necessarily my responsibility, but I knew he was going to take the shot there and go for the gusto. Just wanted to track the ball down, give us a chance. I was tracking. I thought it was kind of out of my reach for a while. I was going to go for the bat down. And, as I got my feet under me, I noticed I could get under it and I was able to do it.”
It was a big moment and a quick reversal of fortune for someone who got beat a few plays earlier. But the rebound wasn’t surprising to those who study the 49ers intently.
His fourth postseason interception -- and the second of this playoff run -- filled his teammates with pride. They thought the moment fitting, considering their defensive leader closed out another important game.
“It was awesome,” rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw said. “He looked like a receiver on that play. I’m glad he made up for it, man. The deep ball got him earlier, but he’s a captain on our team and we know you can’t get Richard too many times.
“We knew they needed to go downfield given the score, and he was right there, made the play and got us the victory. I’m excited to play with a guy of that caliber. He’s a legend. I’ve been watching Richard since I was a young kid. To play with him and learn from him is a blessing. It’s a dream come true.”
The play itself was pretty athletic, considering how far he had to run to get the ball. But nobody was surprised he was able to get there and officially close things out.
“It was amazing,” slot cornerback K’Waun Williams said. “To be out there and have Richard finish this game off was great.”
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Young defenders listen to Sherman closely, and his words can have as much of an impact as his on-field play. The 49ers stayed focused in the second half despite a commanding 27-point lead thanks to practicing what Sherman preaches.
"Sherm has done a great job of keeping our emotions from getting too high,” rookie edge rusher Nick Bosa said. “It really is a long game and a lot of different things can happen. You can’t get overhyped about one play or one series or even a first half. His biggest message was to keep the foot on the pedal the entire game.”
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday)