- Ian O'Connor, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- In a quiet moment a couple of years back, when asked about his desire to win multiple Super Bowl titles as a New York Jet, Darrelle Revis quickly conceded that Mark Sanchez would have more to do with filling the Revis trophy case -- or leaving it barren -- than the cornerback ever would.
We forever hear that the game is all about the quarterbacks and their talent for tilting the scoreboard. Mark Sanchez and Tony Romo combined for nearly 700 passing yards Sunday night, turning a prime-time game between the Jets and Dallas Cowboys into the kind of breathless sandlot shootout that should make a defensive back the busiest man in the house.
Only Revis is usually ignored in these run-and-gun games, made a non-person by an opposing offensive coordinator who would rather challenge Rex Ryan to a hot dog-eating contest than ask his quarterback to throw a ball anywhere near Revis' grill.
The cornerback has a chance to go down as the greatest Jet of all time, and yet the box score cuts against the grain of his extreme worth. Revis had no interceptions in 2010, not a single one. He knocked away a grand total of nine passes.
Quarterbacks control the game, and they almost always refuse to offer Revis a role in it.
"I really don't look at it as frustrating," he said. "I just look at it the guy whoever I'm covering, I just try to cover him the best I can. ... The only thing I can do is watch the guy in front of me."
Or trick the quarterback into throwing to that guy in a 24-24 game with less than a minute to play.
It had been a memorable night inside MetLife Stadium before Romo took the first-down snap at his own 41, needing a mere field goal to score the stunning upset, to make a winner out of the Cowboys' new defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, and to leave Rob's twin brother Rex with a whole lot of explaining to do.
The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks put everyone from George W. Bush to Robert DeNiro in the ballpark. Cops, firefighters, bagpipers and the children of the 9/11 victims were involved in the moving ceremonies, with players and coaches wearing FDNY and NYPD caps and fans chanting "U-S-A."
On introduction, the Jets ran onto the field carrying American flags, with Sanchez, the son of a California firefighter, carrying the biggest one. A giant flag would be rolled across the entire field, and touched by players on both sides. At the half, Tuesday's Children graced the darkened stadium with lights outlining the World Trade Center footprints.
The tributes did nothing to ease the immense pressure Rex Ryan said he felt to win this one for New York. "I tried to take all the emotions we were feeling," he said, "and turn it into passion."
But if the Jets had the passion, the Cowboys had the ball. "It looked bleak," Rex said of his endgame prospects. "There's no question about it."
So the Jets resorted to trickery in the form of Jet Mike Mix, a scheme designed to fool Romo into thinking Rex was about to blitz with the ferocity of his old man's '85 Bears. If the cameras fell in love with Rob Ryan, an unmade bed with personality, it would be the faceless coordinator on the other side, Mike Pettine, who made the call of the night.
"It was a trap call," Revis said, and Romo fell right into it.
The quarterback guessed blitz and a man-to-man coverage that would leave Revis alone on Dez Bryant, who scorched Antonio Cromartie for an early touchdown. Jets coaches quickly switched Cromartie to Miles Austin and Revis to Bryant, who actually twisted the home team's lead corner into a knot on a 26-yard catch.
But slowly, surely, Revis took Bryant out of his game; the receiver had three catches for 71 yards in the first quarter, but was shut out after that. Romo gambled, anyway, calling for a Bryant route near the sideline.
"And then on the hike of the ball," Revis said, "everyone went to their places on the defense they needed to go."
The Jets weren't blitzing, as Romo believed. They weren't playing Cover Zero, as Romo believed. They were playing Cover 5, with a safety (Brodney Pool) giving Revis some deep protection and allowing the corner to stay underneath Bryant.
"We baited him," Revis said of Romo.
"It was our best player against their best player," Jets linebacker Bart Scott said of the Revis-Bryant matchup. "And our best player won."
Romo looked right and fired. Bryant and Revis each had cramped up during the game, but both were working on healthy legs at the moment. Romo thought his 6-foot-2 receiver would find a way to defeat the 5-11 defender assigned to him.
"It was a dumb decision," Romo said.
How dumb? This was going-to-Cabo-with-Jessica-Simpson-before-the-Giants-playoff-game dumb.
"It's just disappointing and frustrating right now," Romo said later, "because we win that football game if I don't do what I did."
He threw the ball to Revis, is what Romo did. The corner gathered it for his first interception since the playoff victory over the San Diego Chargers in January 2010, and soon enough Nick Folk was booting the decisive 50-yard field goal.
As it turned out, Revis had won himself a big game on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and on the third anniversary of the birth of his son.
"He's unbelievable," safety Jim Leonhard said. "If you watch him on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday, he looks exactly the same. You always try to preach that to young players, that greatness comes every day in the NFL and you don't just show up on Sunday in the NFL and make it happen.
"He's the best player in the league on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as well."
Darrelle Revis was the best player on the field Sunday night, if only because the Jets fooled a quarterback into letting him prove it.
Ian O'Connor is the author of "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter." Sunday Morning with Ian O'Connor can be heard every Sunday, 9-11 a.m., on ESPN New York 1050.