© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Richard Sherman has never been known to mince words. If you expected him to do so after an opening day win in which he had a pick-six following a season in which he had zero interceptions and the 49ers were the second-worst team in the NFL, you really don’t know Richard Sherman.
After a 31-17 opening day win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in which the 49ers collected four turnovers, including three interceptions (which surpassed the team’s pittance, and NFL-record low of two a season prior), Sherman, who committed three penalties and had a potential fourth reviewed for pass interference (it was deemed clean) expressed both the need for improvement and a sense of confidence in himself and his team.
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) September 9, 2019
“We played sloppy today, but it’s the first game. We have to knock [out] some of the wrinkles,” Sherman said. “We have to find a way to play a more mistake-free football game, myself included. I had a couple penalties that I shouldn’t have have gad, just tiki-tack. I have to put myself in a better position… It was a decent game for us, but we’ve got to get better.
The cornerback pairing of Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon looked as good on Sunday as it maybe ever has. The game-icing play came from another pick-six, this time from Witherspoon; the first of his career.
Witherspoon was often criticized last season for a discernible regression in play from his rookie year. Some of that can be attributed, Sherman said, to coverage busts by the safety/safeties on plays which weren’t necessarily his fault (see: Adrian Colbert).
The biggest difference in Witherspoon, Sherman said, is his mentality. Whereas the now third-year corner could get bogged down in his mistakes in prior seasons, Sherman said he’s evolved mentally.
“Ahkello is the same player, don’t get me wrong, he was a good player last year. It’s just, his approach has changed,” Sherman said. “He had a few bad plays and a few mistakes here and there and he was a victim of just some busts, some coverage busts where the touchdown or the play wasn’t necessarily his fault… But this year, he’s learned to overcome those things mentally. He’s learned to fight through and not let it emotionally hijack him…. That’s growth, man. He’s going to be a great player in this league for a long time. I’m just so proud of him today and the way he battled.”
Sherman’s pride extends to himself, although it didn’t translate in a touchdown celebration. That, however, was a result of the 92-degree heat in Tampa, which Sherman said put his body “in survival mode.” He said he knew the route that was being run before he jumped it for a touchdown and when asked about turnovers and how he had none last season, the three-time All-Pro issued a warning to the critics of his game.
“As you listen around and you hear people writing you off, you just hope they keep writing you off,” Sherman said. “The people that’s writing me off, I hope they’re also writing their wills because I’m at ya neck. I’m at everybody’s neck this year.”