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Vintage Darrelle Revis Is Sign of Things to Come for Resurgent Patriots Defense

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IOctober 6, 2014

Patriots CB Darrelle Revis (24, above) was all over Bengals WR A.J. Green on Sunday night.
Patriots CB Darrelle Revis (24, above) was all over Bengals WR A.J. Green on Sunday night.Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

He silenced the critics with a top-notch, vintage performance.

The statement above could apply to quarterback Tom Brady and several other players on the New England Patriots' roster after a 43-17 Sunday night smackdown of the Cincinnati Bengals, but it could also apply to cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Finally, the prized free-agent acquisition was doing what everyone thought he was brought to New England to do: man up on a team's best receiver—in this case, Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green—and follow him all over the field and prevent completions into his coverage.

And if the Patriots aren't able to find ways for Revis to spend a majority of his playing time in man coverage, they simply aren't doing it right.

In a one-on-one matchup with two supreme talents, each side will win his fair share of battles, but Revis won the war. Revis gave up only three catches for 64 yards on five throws when covering Green in man-to-man situations. On one of those catches, Revis promptly stripped the ball from Green's hands to force a fumble that would be recovered by New England.

"It was great, man. We did a lot of things game plan-wise where I can be matched up against A.J.," Revis said after the game. "My thing was just try to get up there and get physical with him and be a fly to him, just try to disrupt him as much as I could."

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Revis is at his best when he is allowed to trail a receiver by staying in his hip pocket downfield. The Bengals tried to catch Revis with a few double-move patterns by Green, but Revis didn't bite and was still in position even after Green tried to juke him out of his socks.

By getting in front of Green, Revis was able to ensure that the three-time Pro-Bowl receiver was not able to get behind him. This strategy does not come without its drawbacks, as we saw when Revis drew an illegal-contact penalty that wiped away an athletic interception.

But despite giving up a few catches and drawing a flag, Revis' impact on the game was clear.

And if it wasn't clear when he was on the field, it became immediately clear when he came off the field, in the third quarter, when he suffered a hamstring injury. On the very next play, second-year cornerback Logan Ryan replaced Revis on Green in coverage, and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton promptly launched a 17-yard touchdown pass to his favorite wideout.

It took until the third quarter for the duo to hook up on a touchdown pass, and it only occurred when Revis finally took a break from blanketing Green. Fortunately for the Patriots, the injury was minor and Revis was able to get back on the field shortly thereafter. He picked up right where he left off, shadowing Green all over the field.

"I'm used to it, to compete and take out the No. 1 guy," Revis said. "But whatever the game plan is, it is. There's different game plans week by week. You got to play what the coaches call."

It was refreshing to see the Patriots' coaching staff utilize their best defensive player to his strengths.

♛Chandler Jones @chanjones55

Oh yea, Holy #RevisIsland !!! Did you see that!? @Revis24

There has never been doubt that Revis has the physical tools to maintain his status as one of the best man-coverage cornerbacks in the NFL. At 5'11" and 198 pounds, Revis is not physically imposing, but he has a compact frame that allows him to play physical and aggressive in coverage, while also possessing the quickness and smooth footwork to run fluidly while trailing receivers in their routes. His instincts are incredible, his fundamentals sound.

Although the game plan has dictated more zone coverage in the first four weeks of the season, the Patriots may find it difficult to turn back after they got a taste of the possibilities with Revis in man coverage.

"Our thing was just be aggressive with him as much as we can the whole game, and try to frustrate him as much as we could," Revis said. "We're going to play aggressive, man. That's going to be our style."

But with man coverage, it's never enough to simply have one capable cornerback. Man coverage is a duty that must be carried out by the other cornerbacks on the field, and sometimes the linebackers as well.

The Patriots feel that they have the personnel to carry out a man coverage game plan if they need to.

"It was all matched up so just the combination of putting the guys on the matchups that we felt we would be most competitive on, that's really what it came down to," Patriots head coach Belichick said of Revis' nightlong assignment on Green. "It was a multiple decision. We had Revis on Green and Zo [Alfonzo Dennard] on [Bengals wide receiver Mohamed] Sanu and Jamie [Collins] on [tight end Jermaine] Gresham for a big part of the game and really [Jerod] Mayo on [running back Giovani] Bernard for the most part. Those are the kind of matchups that just, again, the entire team had to face. It wasn't just one guy. That's really how it came out."

The Patriots' game plan could be even more man-coverage-based now that veteran cornerback Brandon Browner has been brought back to the roster; the veteran cornerback was suspended for the first four games of the season due to a violation of the league's substance-abuse policy, and was brought back to the team on Monday.

Mike Loyko @NEPD_Loyko

There is no way Bill Belichick went out and signed Revis AND Browner to play off-zone defenses. No way.

Even if Browner returns to action next week against the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots coaches probably will not ask him to play every snap. It will be up to Browner—and anyone else in the mix for the spot opposite Revis—to bump receivers off their routes and stick with them stride for stride downfield.

That's what Revis was doing on Sunday, and he looks capable of continuing in that role.

Unless otherwise noted, quotes are obtained first-hand and stats obtained via film review.

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