SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Kansas City Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins gave Richard Sherman a stutter step. Sherman, known for his ability to predict his opponents' routes, opened his hips toward the sideline, thinking that's where Watkins was headed. Instead, Watkins burst inside and gained a step on Sherman after the future Hall of Famer guessed wrong and accelerated downfield.
Patrick Mahomes served Watkins a perfect pass just over Sherman's shoulder, hitting his target in stride before free safety Jimmie Ward could help. The 38-yard gain came with 3:44 left in the game and eventually set up the Chiefs' go-ahead touchdown to help win Super Bowl LIV, 31-20 in Miami.
It was a play uncharacteristic of Sherman in his resurgent 2019, his most healthy season since tearing his Achilles midway through 2017 with the Seattle Seahawks.
Sherman allowed just 53% of his passes to be completed when targeted in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus, who gave him their highest coverage grade among all cornerbacks for the year. Sherman was named a second-team All-Pro and earned his fifth Pro Bowl selection.
But one of the most memorable snaps from his banner season is the play to Watkins, one he wasn't thrilled to be asked about during a video call this week.
"It's football. Nobody's played a perfect game yet," Sherman said.
Sherman had been nearly perfect against deep passes during the regular season despite having a speed disadvantage against many receivers. According to PFF, he didn't allow a completion of over 20 yards while in coverage. Opponents were 0-9 on their shots before he gave up a long pass to Davante Adams late in the NFC championship blowout of the Green Bay Packers at Levi's Stadium and the play against Watkins.
Sherman's Zoom call Wednesday happened while he was driving at least one of his two children around. Given all that's occurred this offseason – from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to the protests against police brutality to parenting at home – it didn't sound like the Watkins play has occupied much of Sherman's head space.
"Honestly, it didn't bother me much, period," he said. "I went out there, I prepared the best I could, the guy made a good play, it is what it is. I gave up a 38-yard catch in a football catch. I gave up 60 yards in the game."
Sherman is entering the final year of the three-year deal worth up to $39 million he signed in 2018. He's one of the team's four top cornerbacks unsigned beyond 2020, joining K'Waun Williams, Emmanuel Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon. There's little doubt cornerback has the most uncertainty of any position on San Francisco's roster after the coming year.
Sherman celebrated his 32nd birthday in March and is in the later stages of his playing career. It's unknown where things stand with his future with the team, but it's clear both sides have benefited from the relationship formed following Sherman's release from rival Seattle.
Entering a crucial contract season, Sherman is aiming to forget about what happened late in the Super Bowl after saying earlier this offseason the defense should accept responsibility for blowing the 10-point fourth-quarter lead to Kansas City.
"I'm not going to sit there and beat myself up about it like I didn't prepare hard, like I didn't go out there and put my best foot forward," Sherman said. "You win some, you lose some. You live to fight another day."