FOXBORO - The New England Patriots don't win a Super Bowl without Darelle Revis. It's inarguable. He was the best cornerback in football a year ago, and allowed the Pats defense to do things it hadn't done in nearly a decade. Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick no longer had to lean on a bend-but-don't-break philosophy. Instead, the Pats regularly released the hounds because they knew with Revis -- and Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington -- they could cover things up on the back end.
Then came the reality check. Revis wanted big money this offseason and the New York Jets were more than willing to give it him. The Pats never made an offer that could have been considered tempting by Revis and his camp, and now he's back wearing green and white and playing at a high level.
And Tom Brady knows full well what he's getting himself into this Sunday.
“He makes it tough," he said. "His instincts are incredible out there. He’s one of those guys that sees everything on the field. He sees the formations and routes and splits. [He sees anything] pre-snap that can help him get an idea of whether the ball is coming his way, or if it’s going the other way, or if it’s a run or pass or deep throw or short throw. He’s a very dependable, consistent player. He’s been an incredible playmaker since he’s been in the league. He covers the top guys every week, so I got a first-hand look at that last year every day in practice. It was great to have him a part [of team] here but he moved on so now he’s our competition again.”
Revis has been a ballhawk for the Jets. He's got three interceptions. He's also been in the right place at the right time, scooping up three fumbles.
“Revis is having a big year with those two stats,” said Brady, who's thrown just one interception this year, and that came off the hands of Julian Edelman.
Moving on from Revis was made slightly easier by the emergence of Malcolm Butler last season (although it was seen through the prism of a limited number of snaps, 187 in total, as compared to say the 1,032 Revis had). Butler isn't quite playing to the level of Revis this year, or certainly the Revis of last year, but he's clearly an ascending player.
"Malcolm is a good football player and he’s played very well for us both last year and this year, but just given where we are in the secondary and the level of improvement, I think no matter who we had on our team that he would be playing a lot of football for us," said Belichick. "So that’s really a credit to him and how much he’s improved from last year to this year. He’s a good football player. He’s playing well. He does a lot of good things for us, and there is still a lot of room for him to improve. I don’t think he’s hit the peak, but he’s getting better . . . "
Butler has allowed a catch once per every 10.8 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, while Revis has surrendered one per every 18.4 snaps. That puts Revis No. 4 overall. Butler is 34th. One is not yet in the other's league, but if Butler continues to make the vast improvements that he has since coming into the league, the Pats are set at left corner for many years to come.