September 30, 2016

Revis Archipelago

By Dan Snapp, Patriots Daily Columnist

Zen riddle: If a tree falls on “Revis Island”, does it make a sound?
Answer: Of course. The safety heard it.

It’s a dumb debate that never should have reared its ugly head in the first place. Everybody knows the truth: Darrelle Revis is an exceptionally talented cornerback, arguably the best in the game. And like every other cornerback in the game, he sometimes plays zone, and he sometimes get double coverage help from his safeties. He is, like every other cornerback in the league, not an island.

There’s no shame in admitting that, and by no means does it diminish his own abilities, which the Patriots respected enough to target Revis a mere four times (2 completions for 77 yards) in 37 pass plays Sunday. Yet the island myth persists, thanks to Rex Ryan, Revis’s acolytes in the media, and Revis himself, who loved the moniker so much he trademarked it.

But the problem for Revis this week comes care of Wes Welker’s 73-yard pass play right after halftime. Revis was opposite Welker, and when Tom Brady’s play fake drew safety Eric Smith up, Welker split the two defenders for the long completion. Revis apologists were quick to disavow him of the blame.

“See, Darrelle Revis is gonna let him go,” said Phil Simms right after the play, “Because he says ‘I’ve got deep safety help, I don’t have to worry.'”

“On the first play of the third quarter, when Tom Brady hit Welker for 73 yards down the middle,” wrote Peter King, “It was unclear who was in primary coverage — Revis or safety Eric Smith.”

“Darrelle Revis all but made Wes Welker disappear,” wrote Ron Borges, “But the one time he left him in the hands of safety Eric Smith Welker roasted him like beef tips on the grill.”

“To be clear,” Albert Breer tweeted, “My view of Revis/Welker play: Revis had deep 3rd, passed Welker off to Smith, who wasn’t there, after biting on play fake.”

What was more gratifying for Patriots fans was what Simms said moments before the play: “They can match up with their greatest asset, which is Wes Welker. Of course they’re doing it with Darelle Revis most of the time. Not every team has a guy like number 24 where they say, ‘You go out and cover him and we’ll take care of the rest.'” So an island is an island, except when it’s an archipelago.

Revis, Ryan and Bill Belichick all suggested it was a miscommunication.

“(Welker) looked like he was running across the field,” explained Revis, “Then he got us with kind of a double move and went up the field.”

“It kind of looked like one of those, ‘I got him, you take hims,’“ said Ryan.

“I don’t know whether Revis was supposed to stay with him or whether the safety is supposed to take that inside release and grab him,” said Bill Belichick on WEEI. “Somehow they got a little miscommunication when Smith stepped up on the play fake.”

But Smith said it was quarters coverage that became double coverage once the tight end blocked:

Before the snap, Smith said his responsibility was tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was in the Patriots backfield split off to the right side.

“We were in quarters coverage and when my tight end blocked, Revis and I would have been doubling Welker low and high and we basically didn’t have either one.

“It wasn’t a communication thing because we made the communication before the snap.”

So it could be a pass-off from Revis to Smith, and Smith screwed up. Or it could be a communication failure and both players are at fault. Or it could be double coverage, and both players were at fault. Regardless of what they were in, I’m just wondering whatever happened to Revis Island?

There’s a strange phenomenon that occurs whenever a great athlete’s legend eclipses his accomplishments. It’s a product of the media hype machine, in which no feat goes un-exaggerated, and it creates a cult of personality surrounding the player that the player himself can never hope to meet. Darrelle Revis has now joined this pantheon of hyperboletes.

When the Chicago Bulls defeated the Utah Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan made two great plays at the end of the clinching game: he stole the ball at one end of the court and made the winning basket at the other end. But what gets lost is what happened prior to the shot, when he pushed off on Bryon Russell to free himself. Worse, it’s been whitewashed as Jordan faking out Russell on the dribble. The most the Wikipedia entry on the topic will offer is that Jordan was “possibly pushing off on Russell.” Possibly?

Why weren’t Jordan’s feats at the end of that game – which were legitimately great – great enough that people didn’t have to go making up things that he didn’t achieve? And if you don’t think there’s a whitewashing, compare the NBA Finals Memories version of the play with a more complete one. See something missing?

Brett Favre is the NFL crown prince of this phenomenon. Anything he achieved was bloated as legendary or classic within minutes of a game’s conclusion. Any apocryphal Favre folk tales – like saying he didn’t know what dime coverage was, or carrying a penny in his uniform during SB XXXI – was accepted as gospel. Any failures, like the numerous campaign-killing playoff interceptions, were swept under the rug because “He’s like a kid out there” and “He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played.” Any personal indiscretions, such as his bout with vicodin, were either downplayed or re-purposed to show the personal strength Favre exhibited to overcome the problem. And whenever a personal note could be introduced, such as his wife’s struggle with cancer or his father dying the day before the Packers played the Raiders, it got exploited to further Favre’s glory. There’s no doubt Favre played a great game that night, but is he truly the only player in league history to ever play a game right after a parent died, and play well?

Again, there’s no denying Favre was a great player. Just never as great as legend suggests.

The Patriots played Revis appropriately. He’s a great player, much, much better than his secondary teammates, and so they avoided him. Welker still caught 5 balls for 124 yards. Deion Branch still had 7 receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown. Aaron Hernandez still nabbed 5 balls for 56 yards. And Brady still completed 73% of his throws for 321 yards.

After all, why even bother passing in Revis’ direction when you’ve got “Where’d He Go?” Cromartie on the opposite side? On the touchdown, Branch left Cromartie alone long enough to seed the end zone, if not the female population of Foxboro.

Revis is Ty Law with a better press agent. Like Law, Revis is an elite  cornerback. And like Law, Revis gets away with defensive holding all the time. Watch him covering Welker. More times than not, he’s got his hands on him past the five-yard allowable area.

And like when Lebron James or Kobe Bryant commit fouls, Revis’s own indiscretions go conveniently overlooked, thanks in great part to Ryan’s Pat Riley-esque working of the refs. Ryan somehow implants the seed into their brains – “Revis is so amazing that any contact you see has to be incidental” – and that simple belief takes hold Inception-like to become the reality.

If only Bill Belichick knew back in the day that all he had to do was repeat the mantra that Ty Law was the best defensive player in the league, and suddenly Law would be immune to all the Polian-dictated league pass interference mandates. Somehow, I doubt Belichick could have pulled it off the same way Ryan does so effortlessly.

Carrying such a label actually does a lot for Revis’s legacy. It’s what assists him getting voted in as a Pro Bowl starter every year, even years when he has zero interceptions. And it will help him come Hall of Fame discussion, because again, people are likely to better remember the legend than the reality. But when he fails, and his speed leaves him, and when he finally starts getting called for all the holding penalties (like Law finally did), the label will feel like an anchor around his neck.

Back in 2009, the Jets defeated the Patriots in their first meeting, with Randy Moss being held to four catches for 24 yards. When asked about Revis shutting him down, Moss responded that Revis had help.  A scout confirmed Moss’s claim, stating that out of 77 offensive plays, the Jets were in true double coverage on Moss on seven, and “had a safety lingering over the top in some sort of zone” for much of the game. Even the video of Revis’s interception in that game (recently shown again in the Belichick Football Life documentary) showed double coverage on Moss. Still, in a press conference before the teams’ second meeting that year, Revis chafed at the suggestion he had help.

“I was in man-to-man coverage,” he said. “Everyone saw the game, everybody knows I was in man coverage, that was the case. He’s supposed to say that because [that day] wasn’t his day, he got shut out and was frustrated about it, which is cool.”

And this is how we know there’s no Revis Island: An island never cries. And a rock never has coverage over the top.

Why Tom Brady Will Win A Super Bowl When He Is In His 40s

By Dan Zeigarnik, Patriots Daily Staff

There has been a lot of rabble-rousing by the Boston sports media accusing the Patriots management team and coaching staff of being unappreciative of the dwindling window for a Tom Brady-led duck boat parade. The authoritative press’s logic runs something like this:

  1. Most players do not last much past their mid 30’s.
  2. Tom Brady is 34 years old and therefore only has 3 or 4 years left in the tank
  3. The Patriots Brass keeps trading down in the draft or even worse trading up into the following year’s draft.
  4. The front office traded Richard Seymour for a draft pick 2 years down the line.
  5. New England’s suits don’t seem to be sacrificing long-term viability for short-term bursts, by overpaying for hot free agents prospects, or keeping developmental projects like Price and Marcus Cannon.

This might seem like very sound logic on the face of it, but it seems like an antiquated model that no longer fits. Here is why:

  1. Brady does not have Michael Vick’s scrambling ability, or Brett Favre’s cannon or even Peyton Manning’s precision. Tom Brady’s spiral isn’t always very tight. However, his talent lies in his ability to read defenses and his intense workout effort. Tedy Bruschi said after Brady’s 517-yard game “The tough part was practice during the week. All he had to do was come out here and execute. He demands that from his teammates during the week in practice. I’ve seen him be fiery on the field, yes, but I’ve seen him even more competitive in practice situations. That’s when he does his work, during the week, off the field, all of the film work, then he gets out here, just lets it flow. The work is done. End result: 517.” Everyone always says that Brady’s favorite receiver is the open one, but few people ever mention the reason why he can always find that elusive chink in the opposing defense’s armor. It’s because he is so well prepared that he recognizes coverages better than anyone else in the game. This type of talent and film room study habit does not wither with age.
  2. Tom Brady won his first Super Bowl as a facilitator. He was a glorified Trent Dilfer. He just had an uncanny ability to instrument game winning drives. However, he still accomplished it by throwing screens to J.R. Redmond and the like. Since then, he has morphed into a high-octane offensive machine; producing a record-breaking 50 TD season, and a season in which he had 9-to-1 TD/Interception ratio that earned him the first ever unanimous MVP award last year. So even if his skills diminish with age, he can always revert back to his game management days and rely on a powerful defense to keep the games close, ala 2001.
  3. His 2 best seasons came at age 30 and 33 respectively. His much ballyhooed 2010 MVP award’s was earned despite loosing his over the top threat (Randy Moss) having 2 undrafted running backs (Law Firm/Woodhead), 2 rookie tight ends (Hernandez/Gronkowski), a diminutive wide receiver only 9 months removed from a torn ACL (Welker), and an aged mid-season acquisition (Branch). Not exactly an all-star lineup for what was arguably the greatest season by a quarterback of all time.
  4. The league now protects its quarterbacks a lot more than in years past, which limits the wear and tear on the star players.
  5. Medical advancement has been miraculous even in the last 10 years. Welker was able to come back for ACL surgery without missing a regular season game. Strasburg can still throw 100 miles per hour after Tommy John surgery. In all sports, players are able to stay on the field longer and still be effective. Kobe Bryant averaged over 25 points per game in his 15th NBA season. Wakefield won his 200th game at 45 years of age! Sure those are cherry picked facts but it still, but there is nothing in Tom Brady’s skill set that would make one believe that he couldn’t play until his mid 40’s.

So while Tom Brady might be getting longer in the tooth, he still has a lot more years left to play. His skills are more mental and preparatory in nature and the league will protect him from late hits, hits to the head, and hits below the waist. Brett Favre famously threw for 4200 yards, 33 TD’s and only 7 picks at age 40, and he was a reckless gunslinger whose bad habits got him into trouble in the playoffs. So while Brady’s skills will deteriorate, that by no means that he can’t helm a Super Bowl winning team. It just seems silly to talk about a man’s decline when he clearly better at age 34 then he was at age 24 or 28, and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

As long as the Patriots keep building for the future and create another defensive juggernaut that can match the Patriots’ offensive firepower, there is no reason why Tom Brady cannot lead to more championships. Obviously, the team and the coaching staff could slink off into mediocrity, Tom could suffer another serious injury or just plain hang it up. There are no guarantees in sports, and that’s what makes it so exciting, but there is nothing inherent about Tom Brady’s age that will preclude him from winning a championship long after he has grey stubble.

 

You Are Not Allowed To Enjoy This Patriots Season

By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff

Here are your New England Patriots, coming off a 14-2 season, and returning all their key players, while adding a new draft class, and veteran players such as Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis, Andre Carter and Chad Ochocinco.

Should be an exciting season, no? One to look forward to?

Think again.

Once again, if you listen to the local talkmasters on radio or television, you know that in reality, this team is in BIG trouble. Oh sure, the hosts will make sure they tell you once or twice a show that this team will finish 14-2 again and win the AFC East, but the other 99.9% of the time they are on the air, they’re letting you know that this team is a house of cards, just ready to be toppled by the slightest breeze.

The Patriots can’t draft. That is crystal clear. Belichick tries to get too clever every year, trading around, and all he ends up with are stiffs. Every year. He’s completely lost his touch at drafting, and now that all the players from the Parcells era are finally gone, this team has no home-grown talent that they haven’t completely lucked into.

When Tom Brady is is hit, he is a below-average QB

Tom Brady’s window is closing. Unanimous MVP or not, he’s on the way down. He’s not the player he was when they were winning championships. Football isn’t his priority anymore. Globetrotting with his supermodel wife and his kids come first. His teammates wonder about his commitment. Even if Brady were still at the top of his game, the offensive line can’t protect him. Against a good or even decent line like the Jets, Ravens, Giants or even the freakin’ Detroit Lions or Cleveland Browns, the line folds up and Brady goes down. When Brady is getting hit he is an average or below average quarterback and the team can’t win. You think he’s going to repeat the miraculous season he had last year? No way. He’s good for double-digit picks this season.

Running game? BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a pedestrian back at best. Danny Woodhead is on the verge of brain damage from the hard hits he takes, and then you have a pair of fragile, injury-prone rookies who couldn’t get on the field in training camp. Good luck with that.

The receivers are aging. Did you know that Deion Branch didn’t catch a single pass in the preseason???? Welker is disgruntled about a lack of a contract extension, and Chad Ochocinco isn’t smart enough to pick up the Patriots offense and spends too much time Tweeting instead of studying the playbook. The other receivers have no talent and will hopefully never have to see the field. The tight ends will lose their focus this season after the team unceremoniously cut mentor Alge Crumpler. Bringing in another Gronkowski? Get ready for a frat party in the tight end meetings each day, and with Hernandez in that group, well, things could get illegal quickly.

The defense? You do realize that this was the worst third-down defense in franchise history, right? Even those 1-15 and 2-14 teams weren’t this bad. They only survived the season because they forced so many lucky turnovers. That’s not going to happen again.

Albert Haynesworth? You Patriots sycophants are willing to just give him a free pass on everything and think he’s going to actually be a model citizen here? He’s done. He can’t get on the field, he’s lazy, he’s going to have maybe one good game and then tank for the rest of the year. Shaun Ellis? You’re picking up Jets rejects now? Picking up players just because they had a good playoff game against you is no way to build a roster, Mr Belichick. Who’s going to rush the passer? The ancient Andre Carter? Sure, he looked OK against the scrubs of the Tampa Bay Bucs, but what’s he going to do against real offensive lines? Mark Anderson? They guy is a sieve against the run. They cut Gerard Warren? What are they thinking?

The linebacker except for Mayo are a bunch of JAGS and Mayo himself is overrated. The team cut their best two safeties in James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather and are relying on an injury-prone Pat Chung, who single-handedly (along with several others) cost the team the Jets playoff game with his ill-advised fake punt call. That’s your leader in the secondary? Who are the other guys? An undrafted second year player? A guy you grabbed off waivers from the Broncos last year? Another Jets retread? Good luck back there.

The defensive backs are all too big. There’s no way Devin McCourty is repeating his rookie season. He’s not that good. Darius Butler looked OK as a rookie too, remember? Leigh Bodden is coming off major surgery, and Ras-I Dowling is as sturdy as a 5000-year-old Ming Vase. Then you add a guy cut from the soon-to-be AFC South Champs, which are loaded with talent, but still…

This team cannot beat the Jets. The Jets are in the Patriots head, that much is crystal clear. Fact, not opinion.

Overall, you’ve just got to wonder about Bill Belichick’s commitment to this team. Did he try to load up this year, go all-in before he calls it quits? You have to admit, having the NFL Films documentary about him sure looked like he was trying to secure his legacy, Lombardi-style, before riding off into the sunset and taking the job he’s always really wanted, that of the New York Giants.

How do you feel about your season now, fanboys?

Patriots 2011-2012 Schedule

Here is the Patriots’ complete 16 game schedule for the 2011-2012 regular season*, with links to the NFL.com game center and the opponent’s team website (home games in bold).

Regular Season

  1. 7:00 PM, Monday, September 12, 2011 at Dolphins (ESPN)
  2. 4:15 PM, Sunday, September 18, 2011 vs. Chargers (CBS)
  3. 1:00 PM, Sunday, September 25, 2011 at Bills (CBS)
  4. 4:15 PM, Sunday, October 2, 2011 at Raiders (CBS)
  5. 4:15 PM, Sunday, October 9, 2011 vs. Jets (CBS)
  6. 4:15 PM, Sunday, October 16, 2011 vs. Cowboys (FOX)
  7. BYE – Sunday, October 23, 2011
  8. 4:15 PM, Sunday, October 30, 2011 at Steelers (CBS)
  9. 4:15 PM, Sunday, November 6, 2011 vs. Giants (FOX)
  10. 8:20 PM, Sunday, November 13, 2011 at Jets (NBC)
  11. 8:30 PM, Monday, November 21, 2011 vs. Chiefs (ESPN)
  12. 4:15 PM, Sunday, November 27, 2011 at Eagles (CBS)
  13. 8:20 PM, Sunday, December 4, 2011 vs. Colts (NBC)
  14. 1:00 PM, Sunday, December 11, 2011 at Redskins (CBS)
  15. 4:15 PM, Sunday, December 18, 2011 at Broncos (CBS)
  16. 1:00 PM, Saturday, December 24, 2011 vs. Dolphins (CBS)
  17. 1:00 PM, Sunday, January 1, 2012 vs. Bills (CBS)

Playoffs

  1. Wild Card Playoff Saturday January 7 or Sunday, January 8, 2012
  2. Divisional Playoff – Saturday, January 14, 2012 or Sunday, January 15, 2012
  3. Conference Championship – Sunday, January 22, 2012
  4. Super Bowl XLVI – Sunday, February 5, 2012 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana

*Assuming of course, that there IS a full 16 game schedule.