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Stanford in the NFL: Seahawks feeling super, Colts out of Luck

Wide receiver Doug Baldwin ’11 headlined a remarkably Stanford-centric weekend of the NFL Playoffs last Sunday.

Baldwin proved himself a crucial cog in the Seahawks’ offense as the Seahawks topped the Packers 28-22 in overtime, giving struggling quarterback Russell Wilson a consistent target as the defending national champions attempted to move the ball downfield. The Stanford alum was perhaps the only passing highlight in regulation as Seattle failed to make an impact on the game until well into the second half.

(SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)
Wide receiver Doug Baldwin ’11 (left) accounted for nearly half of Seattle’s receiving yards and caught a 35-yard pass that set up the game-winning touchdown as the Seahawks stunned the Packers in overtime. (SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

Baldwin’s single biggest contribution came in overtime, however. After the Seahawks went on a late run that managed to force a draw at the end of the fourth quarter and began their first attempt to break the tie, Baldwin broke free on a 3rd-and-10 and reeled in a 35-yard first-down catch. The receiver’s efforts proved crucial to his team, as Wilson found Jermaine Kearse on the next play for the game-winning touchdown.

Once the dust had cleared (and the receiver had managed to deliver a pretty absurd number of angry sermons to reporters), Baldwin had accounted for nearly half of Seattle’s receiving yards as his team recorded the victory despite leading for just 71 seconds of the game.

On the other side of the ball, cornerback Richard Sherman ’10 turned in a remarkable performance in what ended up being a wild day for the cornerback.

Sherman seemed determined to make an impression from the opening drive, when he confidently intercepted an Aaron Rodgers lob to Davante Adams in the end zone. The massive catch was reminiscent of Sherman’s infamous pull-down of Colin Kaepernick’s attempted delivery to Michael Crabtree in last year’s NFC Championship, and the subsequent celebration in Seattle’s CenturyLink Field literally caused a minor earthquake in the surrounding area.

Rodgers didn’t tempt fate twice, and largely avoided Sherman’s coverage areas for the rest of the game. This strategy did not prove as successful as the Cal alum might have hoped, as the “Legion of Boom” held Rodgers to his second-lowest passer rating in the last four years. Unfortunately, Sherman’s streak of good fortune did not last until the end of the game, as he injured his left elbow early in the fourth quarter. He looked to be in a good deal of pain on the sideline, and his arm appeared to have lost most of its mobility. Rather than leaving the game at a potentially pivotal moment, however, the Pro Bowler played through. In what may be a great testament to the cornerback’s ability to strike fear in opponents, Rodgers still failed to deliver the ball anywhere near Sherman, and the Packers’ offense failed to respond decisively to Seattle’s late offensive push.

Sherman declared immediately after the game that he would be available to play in Seattle’s second straight Super Bowl appearance on February 1. If an MRI confirms his optimism this Monday, Sherman should prove a difficult obstacle in veteran Tom Brady’s quest for a fourth championship ring.

***

After leading his team on an unexpected two-game playoff run, Andrew Luck ’12 had his season end on Sunday as the New England Patriots routed his Indianapolis Colts.

Luck had been a standout in the Colts’ previous two victories, but he struggled mightily against the top-notch New England defense. The former Stanford leader completed just 12 of his 33 pass attempts and threw two interceptions as his offense failed to respond in kind to Tom Brady’s massive efforts off the other sideline.

Luck did find his Stanford teammate, tight end Coby Fleener ’12, three times over the course of the game, but their connections were not nearly enough to boost the offense in the way that was necessary. It appears that Luck and Fleener may have many more chances to make runs in the postseason, however, as the Colts are rumored to be making an effort to lock up both players for many years to come.

Meanwhile, offensive tackle Cameron Fleming ’14 played an important role for the Patriots as their extra offensive lineman as they coasted to victory. Fleming was notably included in a package during a passing play to fellow tackle Nate Solder that resulted in New England’s third touchdown.

Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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