RENTON, Wash. – Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman always brings it, whether it's with his physical lock-down play or sitting in front of his locker talking about how good he hopes the Seattle defense can be.
"The best of all time -- that's what we want to be,'' Sherman told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday.
Sherman explained how he and his teammates aspire to join the pantheon that includes the 1985 Chicago Bears, the Pittsburgh Steelers "Steel Curtain'' of the 1970s and the Baltimore Ravens' 2000 unit.
But the times have changed, Sherman said.
"The only difference is we play under all these different defensive rules," he said. "The Steel Curtain Steelers, the '85 Bears, the Ravens, those are hard-hitting defenses.
"But they were allowed to play defense the way it's supposed to be played.''
The top-seeded Seahawks play host to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink Field.
Defensive-minded coach Pete Carroll and first-year defensive coordinator Dan Quinn have built a swarming unit that surrenders just 14.4 points per game. The ball-hawking Seahawks lead the league with 39 takeaways. Seattle's 28 interceptions rank as third most in franchise history, Sherman leading the way with a league-best eight and free safety Earl Thomas adding five.
Former New York Giants Super Bowl XXI MVP Phil Simms was struck by how relentless the Seahawks defenders are in their pursuit of the football when he studied video of Seattle's 23-15 divisional-round ouster of the high-scoring New Orleans Saints.
"It wasn't one of their best outings, but I have never seen a defense hustle more than Seattle did in that game,'' Simms told USA TODAY Sports. "They made some mistakes. But we didn't know because their enthusiasm and all-out effort covered it up.''
Sherman appreciated Simms' compliment.
"That's what you want as a defense,'' Sherman said. "The one thing that you can control in a ballgame is your attitude and your effort. Those are things that we want to be known for – being around the football, if somebody strips the ball, you don't want to not be there.''
Sherman played for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh at Stanford and was drafted in the 2011 fifth round by Carroll.
Of the 49ers, he said: "There is no love lost; there is no love found. I don't know if there are going to be handshakes after this one.''
The Seahawks won 29-3 in Week 2 when 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw three interceptions.
But the 49ers, who didn't have receiver Michael Crabtree in that game, won 19-17 Dec. 8 at San Francisco.
Crabtree returned Dec. 1 from a torn Achilles tendon and the 49ers haven't lost since.
"He's more confident in Crabtree and they have that rapport,'' Sherman said of Kaepernick.
Crabtree didn't endorse Sherman when asked if he is the game's best cornerback.
"I don't think so,'' Crabtree said. "I know nothing about 'best in the league.' I just know about teams.''
Quinn not surprisingly, backed his defense's best playmaker.
"Sherm is someone we really hold in high regard,'' Quinn said of the back-to-back, first-team AP All-Pro. "He has size, length and terrific ball skills. And when the ball is in the air, he goes and tracks it and just his ability to use his size to make the break up on the pass.
"It's the challenging way he plays and the attitude he brings because his energy is the same all the time."