FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- If there was ever a time for Darrelle Revis to endure his worst game as a New England Patriot, Saturday wasn’t it.
Nearly automatic all season long, expectations were high for the role Revis would play in the team’s first playoff game. Instead, Revis contributed to a woeful defensive start and committed two costly penalties.
While the Patriots ended up beating the Ravens, 35-31, the overall performance on the defensive side was largely troubling.
“They came out fast, they jumped really fast,” Revis said. “You’ve got to give them credit -- their game plan was very well thought out on how they wanted to attack us. That’s what they did.”
Indeed, the Ravens came out firing, scoring on their first two drives. The first was a clinic in precision, as quarterback Joe Flacco hit four different receivers on five plays to march 71 yards for a touchdown. Revis’ errors began to surface on the second drive.
First, there was a 13-yard pass from Flacco to Marlon Brown on the right side that appeared to initially catch Revis off guard. Three plays later, Flacco found his top target, Steve Smith Sr., in the end zone after Smith beat Revis inside to get open.
For most of the game Revis was tasked with containing Smith, lining up opposite him at the line of scrimmage 52 times out of a total of 77 defensive snaps charted (including penalties). To Revis’ credit, Smith’s touchdown grab in the first quarter would be his last as he finished the game with three catches for 44 yards.
“He was very tough. He’s always tough,” Revis said. “It’s playoffs; there’s a lot on the line and I’m sure he has the will to want to win, but it was great. He caught a touchdown earlier in the game and after that he got erased.”
Although Revis was able to lock Smith up, Smith was able to bait Revis into committing his two key penalties.
The first came toward the end of the second quarter. With the Ravens driving and with time running out, Flacco went deep down the sideline to Smith. In coverage, Revis tried to force Smith out of bounds with an arm bar, drawing a 20-yard pass interference penalty that put Baltimore just outside the red zone. Three plays later, the Ravens had their third touchdown of the half.
Revis wasn’t a fan of the call.
“I didn’t do it,” he said. “I played the ball right. Refs made the call and that’s it. But I definitely don’t agree with the call.”
The second call against Revis was less debatable -- holding on Smith in the third quarter. And the timing was terrible as the penalty negated a strip sack and fumble recovery for the Patriots inside the Ravens’ 5-yard line. Instead, the Ravens retained possession and drove down the field for what was the go-ahead field goal.
“It’s a tough game,” Revis said. “There were a lot of penalties, a lot of scrapping out there. Push and tugging, back and forth. Receivers push off and that’s what it is.
“I pulled, he pushed off, I pulled. So they called it.”
Drawing penalties isn’t usually something Revis is haunted by. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Revis committed four penalties during the regular season -- two defensive holdings, one defensive pass interference and one illegal contact.
For his career -- including playoffs -- Revis had five defensive holding penalties, three pass interference penalties and four illegal contact calls prior to Saturday.
“I don’t care. I’m playing aggressive,” Revis said, further addressing his pass interference penalty. “That’s just what it is. Like I said, we don’t have that much of an advantage anyway with our new rules and all that. ... I’m not complaining. If I get a pass interference, it is what it is. If any of us do, there’s a lot of football to play. We’ve got to focus on the next play.”
Having survived against the Ravens, the Patriots turn their attention to either the Broncos or Colts in the AFC Championship Game. With a victory in that game meaning a trip to the Super Bowl, the Patriots will need their best players to perform to expectations.
That perhaps applies to nobody more than Revis. As Saturday showed, when he struggles, so does the rest of the defense.