The Oakland Raiders managed to make plays against “shut-down-corner” Darrelle Revis.
Sep 21, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver James Jones (89) tries to make a one handed catch over New England Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis (24) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)
(C+P) — Through three weeks, the Darrelle Revis experiment in New England has to be considered a rousing success. The Patriots managed to sign the former All-Pro corner to a one year deal. It will cost the Patriots a 20 million dollar roster bonus if they want to keep Revis in 2015, though they may want to rethink that if his outstanding performances continue.
Revis was brought in to fix an ailing pass defense that, through injury and ineffectiveness, was subpar over the second half of the season, especially the playoffs. New England gave up 717 passing yards in two playoff games, and the front offense realized that if the team wanted to return to the Super Bowl, an investment in the secondary was needed.
Overall, New England finished 18th in passing yards allowed (239) in 2013.
Through three games, New England has yielded the fewest passing yards per game (168.7) in the NFL. Revis has to be credited for a majority of this.
He has been targeted just 17 times in three games this year; his ability to cut the field in half allows the rest of the defense to be extremely creative, given the quality of athletes the Patriots possess.
All that said; Revis Island was traversed heavily in Week 3 against the Oakland Raiders, and the results were not pretty. Revis repeatedly struggled in man-to-man coverage, something he normally excels in. By the end of the game, Revis had given up five of six completions for 63 yards and five first downs. Revis was also bailed out by an illegal procedure penalty, or he would have been on the hook for a 22-yard pass interference call.
The first completion Revis allowed was to Rod Streater on a comeback route midway through the first quarter that got the Raiders near the red zone.
Streater was only one of two options on the long side of the field; Streater easily got separation (slight evidence of a push off) and quarterback Derek Carr delivered the ball on time.
On the final play of the first quarter, Carr delivered a strike to Denarius Moore for 11 yards. The Patriots lined up in zone coverage with Revis having the deep coverage and the linebacker in front. The linebacker dropped into the flat to cover another route, making the completion in front of Revis rather simple. That one was not on him.
In the third quarter, Revis was beat on a five-yard out route in man coverage by James Jones. The route combination slightly screened Revis, but Jones made getting open look easy. Later in the third, Revis was beat on a beautifully run in-route by Jones, although it appeared Revis was expecting a little more safety help.
With the Raiders trailing 16-9 and trying to drive for a game-tying touchdown in the final two minutes, Revis was beat by Jones once again.
This time, a perfectly-thrown back shoulder ball by Carr was the culprit, and the 18-yard pass play got Oakland to the New England 33-yard line.
The very next play out of the two-minute warning, Carr lofted a high ball near the pylon toward Jones, but Revis made an excellent play on the ball and prevented the touchdown. Jones got his hands on the ball, but Revis distracted him enough to force an incompletion.
As an aside, Carr played very well given the circumstances. With no running game, (Darren McFadden clocked in with his typical 3.3 yards per carry), Carr displayed a lot of poise. He did struggle to get the ball down the field, and he was at times inaccurate, but the positives outweighed the negatives against a strong defense. The Patriots also had four drives of at least 10 plays, keeping the ball out of Oakland’s hands.
The Patriots have mixed in man and zone concepts to play to the 29-year-old’s strengths, and aside from this game, he has transitioned in just fine. Against Oakland, he was moved around the field, presumably to keep Carr on his toes. Talent wins out and, despite inconsistencies; the Patriots have one of the best corners in the league in their arsenal.
There are a lot of plays where Revis looked like his normal self. He is running the routes stride-for-stride with the receiver; Sunday he was mostly locked in on Jones after Streater was carted off with a foot injury.
This game would not have been close if New England finished inside the 10-yard line. The Patriots got six points from two drives that stalled out inside the five. Both teams played a clean game in a defensive battle that wasn’t decided until the final minute. The game ended on its only turnover, a deflected interception by Carr with time running out. The teams combined for 10 punts.
The real test for Revis and the rest of the Patriots defense will not be coming for a while either. The Patriots have had what is considered to be an easy start to the season. Ryan Tannehill, Matt Cassel and Derek Carr are not exactly a murderer’s row of quarterbacks. Some of their over the next four weeks include the Chiefs, Bengals, Bills and Jets. Following this stretch of teams, New England’s secondary will be challenged by Jay Cutler, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Matt Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Phillip Rivers in consecutive games.
Until they reach the tough stretch, Revis and the rest of the Patriots defense can continue work in the laboratory. So far, early results from this experiment are positive.