Even as the Jets crash to a three-year low-point, Revis, once again, rises above everyone
Each time the Jets or Giants play a football game, Capital will write about a home-team member who took part in it. This post is about Darrelle Revis, who played cornerback in the Jets’ 29-14 loss to the Giants.
It was appropriate that one of the best games Darrelle Revis ever played was also one in which the Jets’ playoff hopes likely went down the tubes. Whatever hand-wringing or trash-talking or sky-is-falling vibe surrounds the Jets, Revis has always been a rock.
The Giants threw at Revis eight times on Saturday, and came away with a meager two completions. And because one of those completions was a third-down reception well short of first down yardage, only one of those eight attempts was a success.
All week long, the media had played up a petty back-and-forth between Revis, fellow cornerback Antonio Cromartie, and the Giants receivers they were charged with covering. On Saturday, to their credit, the Fox broadcasters focused on something far more important and interesting: Revis’s technical mastery of his position.
They cited his ability to change direction on a dime in step to the receiver, his anticipation of routes, his ability to time his jumps on the ball and the receiver so that he makes contact with both not a moment too soon, and his hand-eye coordination.
Hand-eye coordination is the most basic athletic attribute. It’s what separates kids who can catch a ball from those who can’t. For all the scout-speak about 40-yard-dash times and change-of-direction ability, sometimes it just comes down to what happens in the moment of truth when the ball arrives. When a corner and receiver compete for the ball, the more coordinated kid wins.
Such was the case on numerous occasions on Saturday. On the Giants’ third possession, Revis employed picture-perfect technique on a comeback route to Hakeem Nicks. Even though Nicks had position on him with his body in between Revis and the ball, Revis dove to the side of him and deftly swatted the ball away.
Revis thwarted Nicks and the Giants again on third and goal early in the second quarter, which was the Giants’ best scoring attempt to that point. Nicks, who faced one-on-one coverage with an entire side of the field to work with, ran a quick slant and got inside position on Revis. The throw was on target, but Revis pulled Nicks’ arm down the split second the ball arrived, forcing the incompletion.
“This timing is impeccable!” Fox analyst Tony Siragusa bellowed.
Nicks’ calling card is his ability to outmaneuver defenders when the ball is in the air and use his huge, strong hands to pull the ball into his body. He is one of the best receivers in the game. But he wasn’t nearly as good at catching the ball as Darrelle Revis was at preventing it.
Still, the Giants insisted. Having taken possession midway through the fourth quarter up 13 points, the Giants’ first priority should have been running out the clock. Instead, perhaps gunning for one final humiliation of the Jets, they tried another slant to Nicks in front of Revis. Revis didn’t actually break up the pass this time; in fact, he probably committed a penalty by wrapping his arm around Nicks’ waist and turning him before the ball arrived. But when you’re Darrelle Revis, you get the benefit of the doubt on the bang-bang calls. The contact altered the positioning of Nicks’ hands, causing the ball to ricochet off them to Jets linebacker David Harris for an interception.
The Jets scored a touchdown on that drive to get within 6 points, but then resumed tripping over themselves for the duration of the game. It was a bumbling, dispiriting effort in the most important game of the season by the Jets, arguably their lowest moment of the past three years. But in Revis’s case, the opposite is true.
A FACT-CHECK ON SOME OF THE PREGAME HYPE: Giants receiver Victor Cruz said that “teams aren’t really scared anymore” of throwing at Revis. Whether he meant that as an insult or just a he-puts-his-pants-on-one-leg-at-a-time exhortation is a separate question, but either way, Cruz was wrong.
According to stats from Pro Football Focus, Revis has been thrown at 80 times this year, which is indeed more than the 57 he was thrown at last year (albeit in 13 games). But in 2009, his best season, he was thrown at 111 times. In 2008, he was thrown at 84 times. It would appear that offenses are still plenty afraid of him.
As well they should be. Revis has allowed quarterbacks who throw at him a 44.7 rating this year, the best for any corner who has played half his team’s snaps or more. This represents a rebound from his injury-marred season last year, in which he allowed quarterbacks a respectable 78.8 rating. The year before, he had allowed quarterbacks an almost impossibly bad 32.3 rating.
Making this more impressive is that, virtually without exception, Revis plays in single coverage the whole time. A common lament about football statistics is that, unlike baseball stats, which measure the one-on-one confrontation between pitcher and batter, they cannot possibly account for the interdependence of the 22 moving parts on a football field. But this doesn’t apply to Revis’ numbers: He’s pretty much in one-on-one coverage every time, and he pretty much dominates his man on every play.
That’s been true for the past few years, and it was true again on Saturday.