After a week to refresh and put any emotion behind the disgrace that was week 17, I finally decided to watch the game tape on Watkins and Revis. It made for painful viewing. While I won't have any gifs of the plays, I'll show you how he managed to rack up 6 catches in the first half alone.
#1. 1st and 10 -- 6 yard gain.
This is the one case I will give the guys on the field the benefit of the doubt. The Jets are in cover 3 which is to prevent a deep route. One of the areas it is weak is underneath along the sidelines. The reason for that is that it requires a linebacker to play wide. Watkins and Taylor exploit the hole in the zone here.
Revis has deep responsibilities on the near 3rd while the OLB is supposed to cover the flat area taking away that short route (yellow dotted line below). That's the idea and concept of cover 3 but because of formation and the tight end releasing up the field, the LB gets caught inside taking away and already covered man.
Revis tries to make up ground, but he's just a spectator to a rather easy pitch and catch. Notice how deep everyone else is. This isn't so much on Revis in this particular example.
In the game of football there are two reasons you get beat on defense. You can call a perfect defense and know exactly what is going to happen (defensive spy on a screen play) and it still get beat. That's not this case. This is the exact opposite, where the offense had a perfect playcall to beat a cover 3 defense and that's exactly what they got.
#2. Same drive: 1st and 10 -- 7 yard pass. (screen that he reversed field.)
Revis was again playing off the line of scrimmage. This play was designed to take advantage of the room he gave Watkins. The pass was quick hitter designed to get Watkins in space and get him moving: think the pass Dez scored on against Revis. This is the same thing.
The outside LB makes a great play to break up the play by beating the block to the spot. I'm not sure if the Jets were truly in cover 3 or whether it was man. While technically a success in that it Watkins had no where to run upfield after catching the ball, he still manages to gain 7 yards by running to the opposite sideline. Even when the defense has him cornered he still broke out.
#3. Same Drive: 1st and 10. -- 13 yard pass
This is a classic case of one on one where you take what the defender gives you. Off the top, look at how far off Revis is playing. Two things to consider if you are the Bills looking at this defense. Revis isn't a safety and giving a ton of room so unless it's super well disguised your not looking at cover 2.It could be cover 3 again -- we've already seen them exploit that. In this case it's a deep man coverage.
The route is perfectly designed to take advantage of man coverage...and soft man coverage that Revis was playing. Revis is playing the deep threat, meanwhile Watkins is running a 10-15 yard out route. Revis has his shoulders turned to the inside, making the cut across him particularly hard to defend. (There is a safety over the top, so not sure why Revis doesn't favor giving up the inside route in lieu of an outside route.)
Watkins of course makes the cut and spins Revis into the turf. Revis actually eats it here and falls down. That's how bad he was fooled. Meanwhile Watkins picks up the first down.
This was taking advantage of the cushion underneath and a man coverage that was trying not to give up a big play. Expect to see more of this coming up.
#4) 3rd and 3 -- 15 yards
On third and 3 the Jets opted to yet again play off coverage on Sammy. The Bills recognizing the pattern, opted to run an inside slant/screen route to Watkins. Unlike zone where they could shift men, the Jets were in man. This is not a good defense for a play like this. However, a zone would have been perfect to stop this play. It's another case of the OC guessing correctly.
Here's the problem with Man coverage and Revis playing off coverage. Once the ball is out on the slant, he's having to fight through 4 guys and two blocks to get to Watkins. That's almost a surefire completion the entire time.
It's not so much bad defense, but the offense taking a defense to task for choosing to play man like they did.
#5) 2nd and 9 -- 16 yard pass
This is a bit of play design and Revis fearing the deep ball. It's an interesting formation with two WR split far out to the near side in a stack formation. Both run deep routes, but Watkins will cut his off and run a deep comeback route.
Off the ball both defenders turn and run. Besides the formation, from the way the two defenders react you can tell it's man coverage again. It's interesting to watch how Revis tried to stay so far ahead of the play but ended up letting up the short yet again.
Here you see the moment Watkins hits the breaks. Revis is a solid 5 yards deeper than him. This is very much a defense designed to a take away the home run but give up an easy double.
Check out the room Watkins has to make the catch. Not a defender within 9 yards of him.
That's what you call a cushion.
#6) 2nd and 17 - 4 yard pass.
The Jets tried to get cute here by lining up Revis on the same side of the field as Watkins, but playing a different man. And it works... mostly. Watkins runs a 5 yard spot route.
The coverage is solid on the original route by Wiliams.
But our pass rush never gets home and like Moncrief on Cromartie way back in week 2, the WR makes a break on the broken play and gets the pass. Harris makes the stop 4 yards from the line of scrimmage.
Let's not take too much away from this sample. Williams was on him for one play and it was a relatively easy route.
Watkins had six catches on nine targets.
On the 3 other targets he was open: he toasted Revis on the goal line off a slant move, but a lucky tip saved Revis from a PI flag. Later Watkins slipped running a deep in route against man coverage that nearly lead to an INT. It was debatable whether he would be free if he didn't tri, but by the eye test, it looked like it had a good chance to go for a completion. On the other miss, he dropped a low pass when Cro was 10 yards off on the first play of the game.
To me this speaks to two things: Revis had an awful day at the office against a really good WR. He was late on breaks and played far too much like a guy who didn't want to get burnt long. However, I wonder how much is the coaching told him to play deep. Bowles didn't exactly give a lot of answers about the strategy, referring to the defense as a mix of man and zone.
After watching the tape, most of the plays where Revis got beat during the first half were man coverage and not zone. Additionally, all of them were when he was in soft coverage. That being said, two perfect play calls were called where I'm not sure what he could have done. The first out route where Watkins cut underneath and the slant play. By that token, though Revis also got lucky on the tip at the goal line and the Watkins slip. The goal line play was especially bad watching him get beat hard to the inside.
I'm going to do a follow up post on the second half as it would be interesting to see Revis and Watkins after the halftime adjustments were made. For the record I wrote this article without an agenda in the "Is Revis elite" debate. I try to provide some context for why the plays were successful, even if it means letting Revis off the hook. Some may say I'm harsh on him, but I tried to do my best to let the game tape show what happened.