In the first game, Revis covered Watkins on every play the Bills' young star was on the field. Revis looked like Revis, which is to say he was aggressive at the line of scrimmage. He played a lot of press coverage, using his hands in the five-yard zone. There was very little zone coverage -- or at least that's how it appeared from my vantage point.
The Jets lost the game, but it certainly wasn't because of their pass defense. Revis held Watkins to three catches for 14 yards and the Jets limited Tyrod Taylor to 158 passing yards and 12 rushing yards.
Eschewing the "if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it" credo, the Jets took an entirely different approach on Sunday. I studied every play and noticed only three or four times in which Revis actually made contact with Watkins at or near the line of scrimmage. When he played man-to-man coverage, it was usually off-man or a bail technique, which helps the corner on deep routes. There was very little press-man, Revis' forte. It was a stunningly passive approach.
Watkins was targeted 15 times in the game, and he was covered by Revis on eight of those 15, according to Pro Football Focus. There were five completions for 80 yards, per PFF. Watkins finished 11 catches for 136 yards, including a handful of clutch plays that helped bury the Jets.
All things considered, Revis' performance wasn't as bad as some people are saying, but it definitely was un-Revis-like. The play that jumped out was Watkins' final catch, a third-and-8 conversion with eight minutes to play in the game. It was straight man-to-man coverage. Watkins ran a "stop" route, gaining separation on the stem of his route. Revis didn't close quickly -- he looked slow as he tried to change direction -- resulting in an easy completion.
The bottom line: Revis didn't have a good game, but I don't think he was put in the best position to succeed. Todd Bowles, petrified of getting beaten deep by Watkins, turned one of the best man-to-man players of our time into a zone corner. Essentially, he closed Revis Island.
The question is, why? Coaches do things for a reason, and Bowles evidently believed Revis couldn't cover Watkins the same way he did in Week 10. Bowles was asked a few times about why he deviated from his usual heavy dose of man-to-man, but he never gave a direct answer. He said they played equal amounts of man-to-man and zone. Obviously, it didn't work.
"Like I said, he's a good corner," Bowles said of Revis. "That doesn't mean that good corners don't get beat or have bad games."
Bowles wasn't about to criticize the most accomplished player on his team. Actions speak louder than words.