Darrelle Revis proving valuable to New England Patriots' success

SAN DIEGO -- In the wake of a disappointing afternoon in Green Bay that marked the end of their seven-game winning streak, the New England Patriots relocated to sunny Southern California, where they spent a week as surly snowbirds hell-bent on restoring order.

Then, on Sunday, the Pats brought Revis Island to Qualcomm Stadium -- and the San Diego Chargers stalled like a surfboard-filled Woodie Wagon on a blizzard-battered Cape Cod beach road.

In a command performance that evoked memories of his New York Jets heyday, Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis completely snuffed out the Chargers' most potent offensive weapon, elusive second-year pro Keenan Allen, in a 23-14 victory in front of 68,815 fans and a "Sunday Night Football" audience.

Though the action rarely flowed his way during the three-hour, six-minute game -- indeed, Revis never once touched the football, and his stat line (three tackles and a bunch of zeros) was about as dynamic as a Bill Belichick press conference -- he was the pivotal figure in a tense battle between AFC playoff contenders.

And when it was over, with the Chargers' offense responsible for a lone touchdown and Allen having been held to two catches for 3 yards, there was little doubt that Revis Island, that scourge of talented pass-catchers everywhere, had officially returned.

Or had it?

"The Island's always been there," Revis said shortly before leaving the visitors' locker room Sunday night. "People just forget sometimes."

If the Patriots (10-3), who currently own the inside track for the AFC's top playoff seed, continue their march toward the sixth Super Bowl appearance of the Belichick/Tom Brady era, the offseason signing of Revis might be remembered as one of the great free-agent coups of all time.

That Revis, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, came to be available following his seventh NFL season still seems a bit shocking -- but as the 29-year-old's career plays out, a pattern has developed that makes him the envy of most of his peers. In an era in which star players are routinely stymied by the franchise tag and locked down by non-guaranteed deals that keep them off the open market, Revis has somehow managed to game the system.

As Revis joked Sunday night, "I'm always available."

The man sure seems to be perpetually free, and perpetually getting paid -- and yet, in a relative sense, the two-year, $32-million deal he signed with the Patriots last March looks like a bargain.

To say that Revis has impacted New England's defense is like saying "Breaking Bad" bolstered AMC's credibility as a network.

"He's phenomenal," said Brady, who scorched the Chargers for 317 passing yards, including a 69-yard dagger of a touchdown throw to Julian Edelman with 8:41 remaining. "He's the best in the league, bro."

Such declarations were commonplace a few years back, when Revis routinely frustrated Brady (like so many other quarterbacks) while starring for the rival Jets in the AFC East. However, when Revis tore his ACL three weeks into the 2012 season, a chain of events was set in motion that saw him get traded the following April to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who subsequently plugged him into a Cover-Two system ill-suited to his lockdown talents and -- after a regime change -- released him following the 2013 season.

As Revis struggled to regain his form, he was no longer universally lauded as the king of cover corners, and a steady string of would-be successors to the throne were anointed, often via their own voices. The loudest belonged to the Seahawks' Richard Sherman, who sparred with Revis on Twitter and would later star in a Nike commercial proclaiming himself "the best." The Cardinals' Patrick Peterson, the Browns' Joe Haden and the Broncos' Aqib Talib -- a Patriots standout in the 2012 and 2013 seasons -- also were said by some to have surpassed Revis, who played in last January's Pro Bowl despite a relatively quiet season.

"I think people probably forgot about me," Revis said. "I don't know why."

To Pats safety Devin McCourty, any suggestion of Revis having been surpassed is a non-starter, a sentiment he expressed by vigorously shaking his head "no" when the notion was broached following Sunday's victory.

"The best is here," McCourty said. "I think it was unfair to take the title from him the way they did -- they took it because he wasn't playing (due to the injury), not because he dropped off. Well, he's back now, and he's the best, and every time he's on the field, he proves it."

Typically, Revis' greatness cannot best be captured by traditional statistics, as his ability to shut down an opposing team's best receiver -- often in single coverage -- equates to a pronounced dearth of passes thrown in his direction. His numbers this season (two interceptions, 14 passes defensed, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery) don't begin to tell the story of his dominance.

However, according to the Boston Herald, Revis has been responsible for jacking up the numbers of opposing quarterbacks. Their collective stats when targeting him in 2014: 28 of 68 for 432 yards, two touchdowns and three picks (the two he made and another that he tipped to McCourty).

On Sunday, he killed the playoff hopes and dreams of fantasy owners whose lineups featured Allen, a player who'd caught 17 passes for 225 yards and three TDs in his previous two games, but who on Sunday was as invisible as the imaginary ex-girlfriend of his Chargers teammate, Manti Te'o.

"I don't remember Keenan Allen doing much," McCourty said. "And Keenan Allen's a good player. That's Revis being Revis."

One of Revis' rare blips came last Sunday at Lambeau Field, when he was beaten by the Packers' Jordy Nelson on a 45-yard touchdown catch-and-run just before halftime of New England's 26-21 defeat. It was a setback that stung: As Brady conceded Sunday night, the Pats were an angry bunch during their weeklong stay in San Diego, having felt they'd let a golden opportunity slip through their grasp.

They took out their frustration on the Chargers (8-5), who had won three consecutive games and were in hot pursuit of the Denver Broncos (10-3) -- who'll visit Qualcomm next Sunday -- in the race for an AFC West title.

The Pats, meanwhile, can clinch the AFC East with a home victory over the Dolphins, though they're obviously thinking about bigger and better things. However things play out, Belichick will have a decision to make about Revis after the season, when he'll be due a $12 million roster bonus; the smart move would be to try to work out a longer-term deal that softens the massive salary-cap hit while keeping him in the fold.

That would, at least in theory, give the brilliant corner the type of stability he has yet to enjoy in his highly compensated but fluid career.

"I wish it wasn't that way," Revis said, reflecting back upon his departure from the Jets. "I could've been locked up (in New York), and I could've gone back there (after being released by the Bucs), but New England accepted me with open arms, and I'm very, very comfortable here.

"I've been through a lot in my career, and a lot of it happened so fast. I hurt my knee, and I was still dealing with that when I got traded, and I didn't really feel right until the second half of the season last year. You've just got to take the punches on the chin and keep moving."

For now, good luck moving the ball against the Patriots -- Revis Island has returned, and for opposing receivers, the forecast calls for pain.

Follow Michael Silver on Twitter @MikeSilver.

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