By Brady Henderson
Brandon Browner can pinpoint the exact moment his season turned around.
It was after the Seahawks' Week 8 loss to the Cowboys, a game Browner admittedly struggled in. He had given up a long completion after biting on a double move, then another when he was out of position on a slant route.
What changed things for Browner was a talk he had the next week with Pete Carroll. The Seahawks coach was speaking to the defensive backs, but his message was aimed in the direction of Browner and fellow cornerback Richard Sherman. Carroll told a story about a player he once coached who was too caught up in his own technique and responsibilities.
The moral of the story: Stop overthinking.
"Once he said that to me it clicked," said Browner, who admitted that he was trying to do too much, playing with too many things racing through his mind. "Pull back a little bit. Focus on what I do best."
What Browner does best is provide physical coverage. At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, he has unique size for an NFL cornerback, something he utilizes to jam, mug generally bother the hell out of opposing receivers.
The Seahawks own the league's No. 14 pass defense, a respectable ranking considering they've lost two starting cornerbacks as well as the fact that it represents considerable improvement from the previous three seasons. From 2008-10, Seattle never finished better than 27th in that category.
Browner points to a conversation he had with Pete Carroll after a loss to Dallas as a turning point in his season. (AP)
"It's intimidating, first and foremost," Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. "You line up there and this guy is towering over you. You see how massive he is. And comes up and he wants to jam you in the chest, and there's really not much you can do because of his length, his size and his strength."
Said Carroll: "He just looks so long to (receivers) that it's a long ways around him, which is what bump-and-run (coverage) is all about -- slowing down the release of the receivers and making them have to avoid you before they start running their route. He causes a very big issue for them."
Of course, Browner's physical style comes with a price. He has seven penalties for either pass interference, illegal contact or holding. But only three of those penalties have come in the last six games, an indication that Browner is starting to understand what is allowable and excessive when it comes to contact with receivers.
"He's a good enough athlete to do the artful part of it, the body positioning things to get around guys and make sure that he doesn't make contact, and he's working really hard to get that done," Carroll said. "It's still going to happen sometimes because he's just that physical, but he's working hard and he really demonstrated that last week on a number of plays."
Browner was flagged for illegal contact in the Seahawks' Week 11 win over the Rams, but that was a minor blemish in an otherwise stellar day. The Rams tested Browner all game, throwing his way 11 times. Only three of those attempts resulted in completions, and one came late in the game when Browner was playing well off the line of scrimmage with the idea of preventing a long completion.
He spent much of the game covering receiver Brandon Lloyd, a Pro Bowler last season. Lloyd caught five passes for for 67 yards. His touchdown catch accounted for 30 of those yards, and he was covered by Sherman on that play.
"Shoot, they went after him -- you saw it," Carroll said of Browner. "Play after play they tried to get him. That's a great statement that he could hang in there. I thought he had a very, very good game last week."
A week before, Browner helped keep Baltimore's receivers at bay in a win over the Ravens. Joe Flacco completed 29 passes that game, but only five of them went to receivers. Browner was credited with three passes defensed in that game.
Browner admits that he is playing with a confidence he lacked early in the season. He was signed by the Seahawks in January after spending four years in the Canadian Football League. He had been an all-star three times with the Calgary Stampeders, but he was now playing a different game against different players.
"These guys seemed so much bigger, so much faster," he said of NFL players. "But then I got a couple games under my belt playing with these guys. It's just football again. I feel like that. I've got a good feeling right now. The first couple games I didn't have that feeling.
"... I was playing against all the big names -- Larry Fitzgerald -- and I was keeping them up here on this pedestal when, really, I'm a good football player myself. So I've gotten comfortable as the weeks go by."
Said Carroll: "He's really done a find job. And he's got so much upside. He's just getting rolling."