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Even if Dez Bryant disagrees, Richard Sherman shines vs. Cowboys

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Defensive efforts earn Sherman and Hardy game balls (1:17)

Richard Sherman's effective efforts on defense earn him Sheil Kapadia's game ball, and Todd Archer gives his to Greg Hardy for bringing some fire to the Cowboys' defense. (1:17)

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Richard Sherman said he found out from the coaching staff on Saturday that he'd be shadowing Dez Bryant during the Seattle Seahawks' matchup against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

But really, Sherman had to have an inkling before then. Earlier in the season, he spent three-plus quarters traveling with Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green. And against the San Francisco 49ers, he stuck with Torrey Smith throughout the game.

The Sherman of a couple years ago might have pounded his chest after a performance like the one he delivered Sunday. Bryant caught two balls for 12 yards on six targets. Sherman was the primary defender against him on five of those targets, and on the other one he read a screen, tackling Bryant for a loss. But afterward, Sherman was humble, showing respect to his opponent, just as he's done all season long.

"Any time me and Dez play, it's a total battle," Sherman said. "Nothing but mutual respect, but it is a battle every play. ... I think today I was able to get my hands on a couple. He was able to get his hands on a couple. And that's how those battles go. I think our team came out with a victory, and that's all that matters in the end. It's a ton of respect for that guy. Every play he makes you work."

In past years, critics would point out that Sherman had an easier job than some other top-level corners because he stayed on one side of the field the whole game. If that argument ever held any weight, it certainly doesn't now. Sherman is taking on some of the top receivers in the game one-on-one and coming out on top.

Asked if Sherman gets fired up for matchups like Sunday's, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said: "No, Richard's always amped up. He's always jacked. This is a guy who's one of the great competitors in the game. He doesn't need to play in a game like this to get him amped up, but he is there to rise to the occasion when he plays great players. And he's done that consistently. I was so proud of him today. He competed exactly like we want him to compete in situations like this."

The Cowboys were playing with Matt Cassel at quarterback and totaled just 97 yards passing. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he attempted just three passes that traveled at least 10 yards past the line of scrimmage and completed zero.

Bryant seemed to think the matchup could have been a lot different with better quarterback play.

"Let me get something straight real quick," he told reporters. "Hey man, nobody didn't get locked down over here. Let's get real. Let's get real. I understand our situation. I understand that. C'mon with it, man. Look at the tape, right. C'mon."

Asked if he was implying that Sherman didn't get the best of him, Bryant added: "This is exactly what I'm saying, man. Them as a defense as a whole, they had a good game. You know we came out with our game plan and didn't execute the way we wanted to. It is what it is."

Considering how well Sherman has responded when asked to travel, it seems likely the Seahawks will continue to match him up going forward, especially with guys like Larry Fitzgerald and Antonio Brown coming to town in the next month.