By Kristian Dyer
Florham Park, N.J. — Jets head coach Rex Ryan rarely looks rattled when he takes questions in a press conference. The usually unflappable Jets head coach always seems ready with an answer, whether it be an over-the-top zinger or an inflammatory remark. But on Dec. 3, 2010, Ryan clutched the podium and looked ill, announcing that safety Jim Leonhard was likely done for the season after suffering a serious injury during a collision in practice.
The Jets secondary was in shambles heading into their next game, a 45-3 loss in Week 13 to New England. Leonhard was considered the "quarterback of the secondary," an intelligent and savvy player who saw things on the field and was responsible for communicating calls from the sideline to his teammates. Without Leonhard in their last trip to Foxborough, the Jets' secondary was at a loss as to how to respond to a sophisticated New England passing offense.
Sunday's divisional-round playoff game against the Patriots will give them a chance at revenge.
And the player that gives them the best chance at reversing that trend on Sunday will be Darrelle Revis. It was the Jets' All-Pro cornerback who shut down Colts WR Reggie Wayne to the tune of one reception for one yard in last week's wild-card playoff game.
"That tells you how good Darrelle Revis is," Ryan said. "I know he's probably not going to win the Defensive Player of the Year award, but the impact he has is amazing."
On paper, Revis looks anything but "amazing" and rather ordinary.
This past season, he registered career lows in tackles and passes defensed, and for the first time in his NFL career he went a season without an interception. While the low numbers might not win many fantasy games in a Sunday rotisserie league, they're a sign of dominance. Week after week, opposing receivers have been getting marooned on "Revis Island."
In short, Revis can't register gaudy numbers if the ball isn't being thrown to his side of the field.
"This week will be the same deal because when people see him over there, they don't even throw to him," Ryan said. "They realize that that guy isn't open. I don't care who the receiver is - he is not going to be open. "
Revis, however, left Randy Moss very open in the Jets' Week Two win over New England. In the second quarter, Patriots QB Tom Brady found Moss streaking through the heart of the Jets' secondary for a 34-yard touchdown pass. Revis pulled up lame on the play, hobbled off the field with a hamstring pull and did not return for the second half of the game.
It was an uncharacteristic play for Revis and the type of repeat performance that New England doesn't expect to see this Sunday in the playoffs.
"He's an excellent player. He has had a great career and we've seen him have a lot of great games against a lot of great receivers," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. "He competes very well against a lot of different receivers. He did it again against the Colts."
The Jets will need a repeat performance from Revis on Sunday if they hope to close the 42-point winning margin the Patriots enjoyed in Week 13. If Revis can shut down his side of the field, then the Jets will have a much easier time in corralling New England's multiple personnel groupings. The presence of a shutdown corner like Revis affords Ryan the chance to throw some other wrinkles at a Patriots offense that topped 400 yards six weeks ago against his vaunted Jets defense.
After the lockdown effort against Wayne last week that left the Colts' Pro Bowl wideout wondering why he even suited up, the Jets appear to have finally recovered from the loss of Leonhard six weeks after he was carted off the field. That almost solely can be credited to Revis' superiority on the field. With Revis, the Jets can simplify their defense and let the three-time Pro Bowler dominate.
"We were able to do some coverages during the [Colts] game where we actually played man coverage strictly on his side regardless of who the receiver was and roll their coverage away from it," Ryan said. "You only do that if you have Darrelle Revis. He's an amazing once-in-a-lifetime player and we took advantage of him."
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed for Jets & NFL news at twitter.com/kdyer1012.