Revis' Next Test? Stopping San Diego's Vincent Jackson
The Chargers know that Revis, perhaps the league's most physically and mentally prepared defensive back, will be glued to pass-catching machine Vincent Jackson in Sunday's AFC divisional contest at Qualcomm Stadium.
"I'm looking forward to it," Jackson says. "It's going to be a competitive matchup and it's going to be fun. Who knows what they're going to do? We don't know what they're going to do coming out defensively. But obviously they've been sound all the way around, and we're going to have to just spread the ball around."
It's one of the most intriguing matchups of the NFL playoffs -- the league's best press coverage cornerback shadowing one of the most dominant receivers.
"As far as [teams] we've played this year and [cornerbacks] I've seen, he stacks right up there with the best of them," Chargers Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers said of Revis and the challenge he and the Jets' top-ranked defense will present. "He's just very patient; for as much press as he plays, he's a very patient corner. Obviously, you see when he gets his hands on the ball, he catches it. That's not always the case for those defensive backs, but if he gets his hands on it he usually comes out with it."
The 5-foot-11 Revis is respected and revered for his speed, athleticism and voracious study habits -- he meticulously breaks down every assigned receiver's tendencies, strengths and weaknesses on film. All season, he has dominated top NFL pass catchers and left them stranded on "Revis Island" with little to show for it.
The toll: Andre Johnson (35 yards, 0 touchdowns); trash-talk buddy Chad Ochocinco (two catches, 28 yards, 0 TDs in two meetings); Randy Moss (58 yards, one TD in two meetings); Marques Colston (33 yards, 0 TDs); Steve Smith (five yards, 0 TDs).
"I'm really impressed. We played them here last year," Chargers coach Norv Turner says. "I thought he was outstanding. This system really fits what he does. They do put him on an island, and he handles it extremely well."
Matched against San Diego's prolific offense, however, Revis and the rest of the Jets' secondary may find that targeting on one Chargers' receivers only opens up opportunities for the others.
All season, the Bolts have seen opponents try to lock down on either Jackson, with his 68 catches for 1,167 yards and nine touchdowns, or Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates (79 catches, 1,157 yards, eight touchdowns). If those two are covered, Rivers simply looks to deep threat Malcolm Floyd (45 catches, 776 yards, one touchdown).
As a team, the AFC's No. 2 seed led the NFL's regular season in yards per catch (13.3 yards) and completions of 20+ yards (67). And Jackson did his work in only 15 games -- he sat out the regular season finale to rest a sore Achilles' tendon, which is much improved following San Diego's playoff bye week.
Then there is the distinct size advantage in San Diego's favor. Jackson and Floyd both stand 6-foot-5. Gates is 6-4. They've got at least six inches on Revis. But Jackson isn't anticipating four quarters of the Chargers' big men posting up on the Jets' defensive backs.
"People say that a lot about the size advantage. But if you look at it, maybe one out of every 20 catches is really a jump ball," Jackson said. "All our routes are based on separation from the cornerbacks, and timing with the quarterback.
"Maybe sometime down the field there will be a jump ball. But honestly, I can't think of too many situations where it's just me going up on a guy. They understand how to play to our receivers as well. I'm not going in there thinking it's just going to be a jump-ball fest."
The physical Gates is expected to draw attention from Jets safety Kerry Rhodes, while Floyd likely will be shadowed by veteran Lito Sheppard. But Gates isn't concerned about the individual matchups.
"No because we play together as a unit. There's no situation where I feel like there's pressure on me or the team for that matter," he said.
Still, everyone realizes Revis has singular ability to change a game: He logged an NFL-high 34 passes defensed along with a team-best six interceptions.
"I don't like the term 'Shutdown corner,' because I think that's hard to find and it gets thrown around pretty loosely," Turner said, "but I think I might use that term with Revis. He's awfully impressive on tape. He just goes after it, and he plays every play like this game is meant to be played, and he is very impressive."
The Jets bring the NFL's top rushing attack to Qualcomm Stadium, a unit that averages 172.3 yards per game. It's anchored by three Pro Bowl linemen: center Nick Mangold, guard Alan Faneca and left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson. With that trio and running back Thomas Jones combined, Gang Green can eat up large chunks of clock time.
Rivers knows that whatever time he and his offense gets with the ball will have to be maximized. And that means getting Jackson in the best position to make catches against Revis -- or to at least keep those two occupied long enough to open opportunities for others.
"Well, certainly, when you've got a great player on the other side they have an impact and can affect things you may want to do," said Rivers, who passed for 4,254 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, leading a San Diego offense that has outscored opponents 83-16 during its current 11-game winning streak. "But this game isn't between Vincent and Revis.
"There are 10 other guys on both sides of the ball and a lot of things have to happen to go get the ball in the end zone and a lot of things for them to stop us. That will be certainly a matchup worth paying attention to; I know you guys will pay a lot of attention to it. We'll be focused on finding ways to get the ball into the end zone."