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AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File
Richard Sherman is an elite corner. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. But if the Patriots expect to walk out with a 4th ring, they'll have to challenge Sherman some way. How? The numbers suggest that Julian Edelman or Danny Amendola might be the way to go.

By the numbers, per MassLive:

This season, including the playoffs, quarterbacks targeting Sherman were 34-72 for 473 yards, one touchdown and six interceptions. That’s a Johnny Manziel-like 38.7 passer rating. And Sherman has been especially great over his past eight games, when he has allowed 11 receptions on 27 targets for 144 yards, no touchdowns and four picks. That’s an 18.7 passer rating. That's a rating so low no quarterback deserves to be associated with it.

The passer rating against Sherman only looks normal in one scenario: When quarterbacks target smaller wide receivers. In coverage against players shorter than 6-foot, Sherman yielded 11 receptions on 18 targets for 203 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions (78.9 rating).

The above numbers include his matchups with Odell Beckham Jr. and DeSean Jackson, two burners that the Patriots obviously don’t have. New England does have Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, though, both of whom excel on short routes and are difficult to jam at the line of scrimmage.

Both Edelman (5'10") and Danny Amendola (5'11") fit the "under 6 feet" bill that has given Sherman some problems over the course of the season, so I'm guessing that Bill Belichick will come up with a few schemes that involve one of those 2 guys matched up on Sherman. The Patriots also could copy Green Bay and line a Michael Hoomanawanui out on Sherman's side.

Masslive:
Not too often has Sherman been lined up across from a slot receiver, but Green Bay got creative a week ago, splitting tight end Richard Rodgers out wide on Sherman’s side and placing Nelson in the slot. The play, a 6-yard completion, was nothing special. The concept could be intriguing to the Pats.

In both playoff games, they split Michael Hoomanawanui wide with Brandon LaFell or Julian Edelman in the slot. On one play, Indianapolis corner Vontae Davis, who almost always covers on the outside, was stuck with Edelman inside (of course he's not going to cover Hoomanawanui). Edelman beat Davis on a slant, but dropped a pass from Brady that would have netted a 10-yard gain.

This isn’t to say the Patriots will put Hoomanawanui wide on Sherman’s side every snap, but rather to suggest the benefit of being imaginative — which Josh McDaniels has been known to be — and making Sherman cover small, shifty receivers. To say the Patriots can exploit the matchup might be an overstatement. They can certainly test it, though.

Who knows what Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels are planning, but one thing is for sure: They have to challenge Sherman if they want to win Sunday.

Conor Frederick 1/26/2015 02:26:00 PM Edit
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