The Super Bowl finally arrived on Revis Island.
New England’s Darrelle Revis, considered the NFL’s premier shutdown corner, even in a world that includes Seattle’s Richard Sherman, has come close to the Super Bowl but seriously wondered if his time would ever come.
Revis, a six-time Pro Bowler, played in two AFC Championship Games with the New York Jets, but lost to the Indianapolis Colts in 2009 and Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010.
“You know, there’s always doubt,” Revis said of his Super Bowl aspirations. “Especially going through eight years of not really accomplishing what you really want to accomplish as an individual player and also as a team goal. That’s basically getting to the Super Bowl and actually winning it.
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“I can speak for myself personally and I’m sure I can speak for a lot of guys in the NFL who don’t make it to the playoffs. There’s some guys who play 13 or 14 years and never make the playoffs. It’s humbling.”
After chasing big free-agent money and spending 2013 in the wilderness at Tampa Bay, Revis, 29, signed a one-year, $12 million contract with the Patriots last March for what could have been his last chance to reach a Super Bowl. And now, his chance has come with the Patriots, his one-time archrival in the AFC East, on Sunday against Seattle.
“This is pretty awesome,” Revis said. “The two AFC championship games in New York, it was pretty awesome to get there, too, but I’ve got a third stab at it, and it’s pretty great. I’m trying to enjoy the experience, but getting the win will be the ultimate satisfaction.”
Revis was at his best in championship games. In the game against Indianapolis, he held Colts star receiver Reggie Wayne to three receptions for 55 yards. A year later, he and fellow cornerback Antonio Cromartie combined to hold Pittsburgh’s Hines Ward and Mike Wallace to three receptions for 20 yards.
And in the Patriots’ win over Indianapolis in the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 18, Revis picked off an Andrew Luck pass and returned it 30 yards to the Colts’ 13, setting up a touchdown.
He’s brought a much-needed new dimension to the Patriots secondary, which struggled during the last two seasons and fell short of the Super Bowl.
“What has changed in the New England defense is Darrelle Revis, without question,” said former NFL quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Phil Simms, now an analyst with CBS. “The No. 1 thing he is able to do is line up and take a receiver and not always, but most of the time, win those battles and free up (coach) Bill Belichick to do other things and create other problems for offenses.
“There’s only two or three corners in the NFL who can do that, and Darrelle Revis is at the top of the chart.”
The Revis Island nickname originated early in his career with the Jets.
In an interview I said, ‘I feel like I’m on an island,’” Revis said, “and the next day in the paper I guess one of the reporters said that I was on an island.”
Revis, the AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, leads all NFL players in passes defensed with 123 since he entered the NFL in 2007. He has 23 career interceptions, and 10 have been in the fourth quarter, with five coming with 2 minutes or less remaining and the game within seven points.
“I study a lot of film, so I do my own assessment of just studying receivers and offenses and quarterbacks,” Revis said. “They do the same thing; you have to give them the same respect. They game plan: They might have double moves or triple moves or certain plays where they really want to attack you, so you have to give them that respect.
“I appreciate the competition. At the same time, the only thing I can do is focus on that play at that time. And really just zone in on what I’m trying to do and complete my job.”
Revis made an immediate impact upon joining the Patriots. In his New England debut, he recovered a fumble in Patriots territory that thwarted a Miami scoring drive; and in week two, he intercepted his first pass as a Patriot against Minnesota’s Matt Cassel.
“Reve has been a guy that can take on any guy any week,” said Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty. “It doesn’t matter short, quick guy, a big long-stride, guy … it doesn’t matter what the receiver is.”
Revis, who had two interceptions for the season, also had an impact on helping the Patriots’ receivers in practice every day.
“It’s been great for a guy like me just being around Darrelle,” said wide receiver Brandon LaFell, who also joined the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent this year. “Just practicing against him every day, making me bring my A game, because if you don’t, he’ll embarrass you, man.
“If you can get open on Revis and (Brandon) Browner during practice all week, I feel like you can get open on anybody. For our defense, there’s a lot of times where we put Revis on their best receiver, and he takes them out of the game. We can go through the number of receivers he’s done that to, and that allows every other guy on our defense to play with a lot of confidence, play faster and not worry too much about Revis on the other side, because he is going to take care of business.”
Revis will take on Seattle’s Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse on Sunday, and though they don’t have eye-popping numbers, they’ve displayed the ability to come up with big plays in crunch time. Baldwin caught a 16-yard touchdown pass in the playoffs against Carolina, and his 35-yard catch set up Kearse’s game-winning 35-yarder that beat Green Bay in overtime of the NFC Championship Game.
“They are definitely not underrated,” Revis said. “They do a great job of working with Russell Wilson. They’re very tough in run blocking; they’re tough in extending plays down the field; they’re tough running routes. They wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
New England may not be here either without Revis.