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Jets' Revis: Believe the Hype

Dec 4, 2009 – 1:52 AM
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Dan Graziano

Dan Graziano %BloggerTitle%

Darrelle RevisTORONTO -- You'd have to be living under a rock not to have heard about Darrelle Revis, the Jets' super-shutdown cornerback, the man the NFL's best receivers hate to face. But I am a skeptic, by trade and by nature. The trendier the trend, the longer I wait to get on board. The more commonly held the belief, the more likely I am to doubt it. So I showed up here for Thursday night's Jets-Bills game determined to watch Revis vs. Terrell Owens on as many plays as I could, to see if I could figure out what the fuss was all about.

The verdict? This guy isn't hype, folks. No. 24 in green and white flat-out dominated this game. His interception with 2:02 left -- when the Bills finally got fed up with trying to avoid him and decided they had to take the chance because an Owens miracle was their only hope -- sealed a 19-13 Jets victory, but the way he played in the 58 minutes that led up to that had as much to do with the win as did anything else that happened on the Rogers Centre turf.

"Well, he dropped two interceptions tonight," Jets coach Rex Ryan deadpanned, when asked about Revis' game. "So I'd have to say that was a poor game for Revis."

Funny. There were a couple of Ryan Fitzpatrick passes that clanked off Revis' hands. And Revis did say after the game that he regretted them. But while interceptions are nice, Revis knows his job is to prevent the other team's top receiver from catching the ball. And they ways in which he went about that Thursday were masterful.

"He's big, first of all," said fellow Jets cornerback Lito Sheppard. "So he can get up there and get physical with the receiver. But then he's also got the speed to run with him. So he can get you both ways. Every week, he's something special."

As everyone expected, Revis lined up opposite Owens on the game's first play. He played tight to the line and gave Owens a shot as soon as the ball was snapped. Like an offensive lineman trying to block a defender from getting to his quarterback, Revis stayed right in Owens' face and forced him to make several efforts just to get past him and into the secondary. And once there, Revis matched him stride for stride.

This was the game plan as the Bills expected it, and it worked. Owens, who came into the game red-hot, caught three passes for a total of 31 yards. He didn't catch his first one until there were two minutes gone in the second quarter and Fitzpatrick found him for a little six-yard dump-off. He didn't catch another until there were nine minutes left in the game.

"I know these guys are going to get balls thrown to them," Revis said. "I just have to limit how many catches they get."

As physically challenging as he is to play against, Revis also works on the opponent's psyche. Buffalo was so sure Revis was going to be blanketing Owens all night that they purposely went after Sheppard on the other side. The third play of the game was a deep pass to Lee Evans against Sheppard. Evans caught it for a 38-yard gain and only a diving Sheppard tackle kept it from being a 75-yard touchdown catch.

But the Jets knew that the Bills would expect Revis to be Owens' shadow, so they shook some things up. Shortly after the long gain to Evans, Revis and Sheppard switched sides, and Revis played Evans while Sheppared worked on Owens. Since it's a lot to ask of the quarterback to notice such a change just before the snap (especially since Revis wears No. 24 and Sheppard No. 26, so they look similar at a quick glance), the result was that Fitzpatrick went looking for Evans, expecting to find him open, and instead saw Revis smothering him. Sheppard called it a "changeup," and the Jets did it twice in the first quarter. The second time, Fitzpatrick was so flustered that he lost the ball on a play that was originally called a fumble but changed, via replay, to an incomplete pass.

"That was set up to confuse them a little bit, and I think it had that effect," Sheppard said. "We did a good job disguising a lot of things today."

Revis was, of course, fine with the trickery, though it did make for a tough (as well as a short) work week. Usually, he spends his week of practice studying film of the receiver to whom he's assigned. This week, since there were going to be plays where he was on Evans, he had to study both of Buffalo's big-play wideouts.

"When you have to prepare to cover Terrell Owens and Lee Evans in the same week, that's a lot of work," Revis said.

But he did it. And he had help. Ryan said Sheppard got a game ball for his performance, and in truth he did an excellent job on Evans, who was thrown to six more times after that long gainer but didn't catch another ball all night.

"We didn't win many of those matchups," Buffalo coach Perry Fewell said. "We couldn't get Lee free to win any of those matchups, so it was a tough not for not only T.O. but for Lee as well."

The Jets also praised to their defensive line, which took advantage of a terrible and tattered Bills offensive line and pressured Fitzpatrick all night. But everybody on the defense was pointing to No. 24 as the star of the show.

"He's had a tremendous year, and it just allows us to do so much as a defense," safety Jim Leonhard said. "Just knowing he's going to shut down the other team's best receiver and you don't have to worry about it. It's done. Taken care of."

Owens didn't have much to say after the game. He said he felt the Bills had some chances late and couldn't capitalize. And he gave credit to Revis for a game well played.

"Very physical," Owens said. "I would say he's a very good player who's established himself as one of the best in the league at his position."

Revis said he didn't hear much from Owens during the game, but that he could tell his coverage was having an impact on Owens' mindset and game.

"When he's not getting the ball a lot, he tends to get a little frustrated, and that's part of the strategy against him," Revis said. "First, you can see it in his body language. Second of all, you can see it in how he's running his routes, how he's not blocking, those type of things. When they get him into the offense, he's more upbeat and doing all those other types of things."

By the fourth quarter, Owens was downbeat, and the Bills were out of options. Evans having turned up a dud, Fitzpatrick decided he was just going to have to find Owens no matter how good Revis was. So they set Owens in motion a couple of times, which forced Revis to play off the line a bit because he was uncertain of what Owens' first move would be. That worked a little bit, as Fitzpatrick hit Owens for a 15-yard gain and a 10-yard gain in a three-play span on a drive that set up a field goal and cut the Jets' lead to 19-13.

But when Buffalo got the ball back with 2:32 left, still down six, on their own 23, it was desperation time. Fitzpatrick took a sack on first down, setting up a 2nd-and-20 on which he heaved the ball 50 yards down the right sideline for Owens. Revis read it perfectly, jumped in the air and came down with the interception that locked up the game.

Fitting, really, since Revis was the guy who dominated the game from the start.

"It's a challenge every week with guys like him and Randy Moss," Revis said. "That's two of the premier receivers in the league, and they're in your same division, so we seem them twice a year. You've got to be up for those battles. I look forward to those types of matchups, and I'm sure those guys do as well." Don't be so sure about that last part.
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