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Thursday, December 1, 2011
Isle be darned, Jets star is human

By Rich Cimini

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Albert Pujols suffers an occasional oh-fer. Kobe Bryant doesn't knock down every shot at the buzzer. Tiger Woods ... OK, bad example, but you get the drift. Even superstars have bad days, and Darrelle Revis had one last Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

Two storylines have emerged since then:

• The New York Jets have vigorously defended their best player from what they believe is unwarranted criticism, insisting he was simply playing within the structure of the defense.

• Everybody is eager to see how Revis responds Sunday against the Washington Redskins, which is to say they expect him to dominate.

Darrelle Revis, Stevie Johnson
Darrelle Revis didn't stop Stevie Johnson from having a productive day.

Memo to Rex Grossman: Unless you want that bloated interception total to get fatter, stay away from Revis Island.

"Knowing him," Jets coach Rex Ryan said of Revis, "he can't wait to play this game."

Revis is the least of the Jets' concerns, but because he is who he is -- arguably the best cornerback since Deion Sanders -- a rare off day becomes newsworthy.

His coverage was unusually soft, as he allowed that pantomiming fool, Stevie Johnson, to catch eight passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. It could've been a lot worse if Johnson hadn't dropped that wide-open pass in the final seconds. One NFL personnel executive, watching from home, said he was surprised by Revis' lack of aggressiveness and wondered if he was favoring an injury.

The Jets, of course, are saying it has been blown out of proportion, that Revis was told to play conservatively because there was "zero" coverage in the secondary. In other words, there was no deep safety, meaning Revis and Antonio Cromartie were on islands.

"He gave up 75 yards ... in zero coverage the whole game. I'll sign up for that each week," Ryan said of Revis. "That's a great performance."

For a good cornerback, maybe. For Revis? Not so much. No matter how they try to spin it, it was a sub-par performance -- and that's OK. The man is entitled to a hiccup.

"The standards are so high because of just how ridiculously consistent he's been," defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said Thursday. "So when he does give up a couple of completions, you're like, 'Wow, this guy is human.'

"It's scary because [greatness] kind of becomes expected. That's the norm, and when he actually does look like just a regular corner sometimes, people at first get taken aback."

Revis looked bad on Johnson's 5-yard touchdown reception -- he backed off moments before the snap -- but it wasn't Revis' fault, according to Pettine. He said another player was supposed to be positioned in the slant lane. (Based on the tape, it looked like David Harris.) Revis was overplaying the outside, expecting inside help.

Funny, but Cromartie never gets these alibis when he gets beat.

"I don't care if somebody catches 20 passes for 200 yards and four touchdowns," Revis said. "If we win the game, that's all I care about."

In fairness to Revis, he was simply playing down-and-distance football on many of those completions. Six of the eight completions came when the Bills needed at least nine yards for a first down, which probably explains the cushion. Only one ball completed on Revis resulted in a first down.

Four days later, Pettine seemed almost uncomfortable discussing Revis' performance.

"We're talking about it like somehow it was a bad week," he said. "By his ridiculously high standards, I guess you could make the argument that it was, but Darrelle Revis is the least of our worries this week."

But it still was weird, seeing Revis get picked on so much. Truth be told, teams aren't avoiding him the way they did early in the year. In the first five games, he allowed only four completions for 42 yards, according to the website Pro Football Focus. Over the last six games, it has been 20 for 306.

Down in Washington, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan couldn't believe his eyes when he watched the tape and saw how the Bills went after Revis.

"Yeah, I was a little bit surprised," he said. "I think he was probably surprised. He wasn't ready for that, because nobody does that. ... I don't think anybody's going to catch him by surprise anymore. You might do that once, but that's not going to happen again. If you watch him on tape, any time he's challenged, he plays at a very, very high level."

Told of Shanahan's remarks, Revis suspected possible mind games.

"He might want me to relax, and they do come after me," he said, laughing.

Revis said he's ready for anything. Against Grossman, who has the highest interception rate in the NFL, it wouldn't be a shock if he and Cromartie -- also coming off a shaky game -- pick off a pass or two.

Fool him once ... maybe. And the next team pays.