What a night, and what a finish.
Near midnight I still had about 70 unread text messages from friends and family, most of which read, “Best interview ever!” Many of my Twitter mentions were less supportive. My body ached. I was thrilled and proud and upset, all at once.
Here’s what happened ...
I spent most of the game on an island: I was targeted only twice during the entire NFC Championship. The first produced a BS holding call against me; the second ended the game. Michael Crabtree stutter-stepped out of his break on first down and sprinted toward the end zone. I was in good position for a pick until he pushed me in the back. My interception became a tip and an interception for Malcolm Smith in the end zone.
Game over. The Seahawks are in the Super Bowl.
I ran over to Crabtree to shake his hand but he ignored me. I patted him, stuck out my hand and said, “Good game, good game.” That’s when he shoved my face, and that’s when I went off.
I threw a choking sign at 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Why? Because he decided he was going to try the guy he was avoiding all game, because, I don’t know, he’s probably not paying attention for the game-winning play. C’mon, you’re better than that.
Erin Andrews interviewed me after the game and I yelled what was obvious: If you put a subpar player across from a great one, most of the time you’re going to get one result. As far as Crabtree being a top-20 NFL receiver, you’d have a hard time making that argument to me. There are a lot of receivers playing good ball out there, and Josh Gordon needed 14 games to produce almost double what Crabtree can do in a full season. And Gordon had Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell playing quarterback.
But that’s not why I don’t like the man. It goes back to something he said to me this offseason in Arizona, but you’d have to ask him about that. A lot of what I said to Andrews was adrenaline talking, and some of that was Crabtree. I just don’t like him.
It was loud, it was in the moment, and it was just a small part of the person I am. I don’t want to be a villain, because I’m not a villainous person. When I say I’m the best cornerback in football, it's with a caveat: There isn't a great defensive backfield in the NFL that doesn't have a great front seven. Everything begins with pressure up front, and that's what we get from our pass rushers every Sunday. To those who would call me a thug or worse because I show passion on a football field—don’t judge a person’s character by what they do between the lines. Judge a man by what he does off the field, what he does for his community, what he does for his family.
But people find it easy to take shots on Twitter, and to use racial slurs and bullying language far worse than what you’ll see from me. It’s sad and somewhat unbelievable to me that the world is still this way, but it is. I can handle it.
One thing I can't accept is what I read after the game about Seahawks fans throwing food at 49ers linebacker Navorro Bowman as he was being carted off the field with his knee injury. If it’s true, it’s beyond terrible. That’s as low as it gets. I’m sure whoever did this is in a small minority of fans, because I don’t think that kind of action is an accurate representation of the character of the 12th man. Navorro Bowman is a great player who plays the game the right way. When he went down, I dropped to a knee and prayed for him. He deserves better than having food thrown at him as he’s carted off a field. All players deserve better than that.
So here we are, in the Super Bowl. New York-bound. There will be a lot of talking, but at this point, after 18 games, there’s nothing left to say. We have the right mindset, and nothing can change that. We’ve treated every week like a championship opportunity and we’ll obviously continue to think that way. We deserve to be here. We didn’t sneak into the Super Bowl; we earned our way. Now every goal we set forth at the beginning of the season is in front of us.
The Broncos stand in our way, and it’s a large obstacle. They’ve got the smartest quarterback in football and receivers who are large (mostly), explosive with the football and run great routes. Wes Welker is quick and elusive, Eric Decker is a great receiver with hands and speed, and Demaryius Thomas is as strong as they come. And Peyton knows how to get each of them in spots.
It’s the No. 1 offense vs. the No. 1 defense. It’s a match made in heaven, and we couldn’t be more excited. If you’re any kind of competitor and you have any kind of dog about you, you want to play against the best. Finally, we get the opportunity.
(Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated/The MMQB)