What We Learned About Darrelle Revis, Zone Coverage, and the Defense in the First Half Against New England


Aug 29, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis (24) after the game against the Washington Redskins at Raymond James Stadium. The Redskins won 30-12. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

During Sunday’s disappointing loss to the New England Patriots, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers appeared to continue a trend of using All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis in very loose coverage and in zone coverage.

It’s a trend that allegedly drew the ire of someone in Darrelle Revis’ camp, and led to a national media report that Revis was unhappy with the was he was being used. It’s a trend that led to Bucs Nation being so bold as to say the Buccaneers are wasting Darrelle Revis.

So how did the Buccaneers actually use Revis on Sunday? Let’s take a look at the first 12 passes thrown by the Patriots in the first half, and how Darrelle Revis was used on those plays. Note that on some of these plays, I’m doing the best I can to figure out the coverage, but since the Buccaneers implemented some matchup zone this week, some zone plays or man-to-man plays may actually be matchup zones.

Play 1: Revis lines up in man-to-man coverage, and the play is a completed pass to the other side of the field on a screen. Good start.

Play 2: Revis lines up in what appears to be man or some kind of off-man coverage, and the play is an incomplete pass to the other side of the field.

Play 3: Same as play 1.

Play 4: This play starts off looking like man to man, but it turns into a zone blitz which gets to Tom Brady. Revis covers his man for a few yards, then allows him past to run to Ahmad Black.

Play 5: This play is a zone of some kind, possibly a matchup zone, to combat the crossing routes the Patriots often deploy. Revis was lined up closest to Aaron Dobson, but winds up covering Brandon Bolden on a wheel route.

Play 6: Darrelle Revis starts on a side of the field which has no receivers, and appears to cover Zach Sudfeld in what Joe Bussell called a “matchup zone” on Twitter.

This is one of those plays you could take issue with, because Revis is far too talented to be on Zach Sudfeld on 3rd and 3, and he’s certainly too talented to be in a zone on a portion of the field where there are no receivers.

Here’s what the play looked like, to jog your memory.

As you can see, Revis (top of the image) has no chance to be involved and cover any of the receivers at the bottom of the image. And considering the down and distance, it seems really strange to not have Revis playing tight man coverage on a top receiver, to eliminate a threat from the offense.

Play 7: Revis lines up in zone coverage. The Bucs get a sack.

Play 8: Ahmad Black is dropped deep on a second down and long, and he’s shaded towards the side of the field that doesn’t feature Darrelle Revis. Revis is either in a short zone or man to man at the top of the image, and sticks with the receiver in that area.

But look at the failure on the other side of the field.

There are three players defending grass, while Brandon Bolden runs, uncovered, down the sideline. This isn’t the last time you’ll see this, but it’s painful to watch. You can see Revis circled at the top of the image.

Play 9: Third down and long for the Patriots, so the Bucs play zone. Reasonable playcall, gets the result they need.

Play 10: This play appears to be man-to-man coverage for everyone, but Darrelle Revis didn’t get the message. There are two deep safeties, and everyone else matched up, but Revis allowed his man to cut to the middle of the field while he remained at medium depth on the sideline. That turns into an easy first down for Aaron Dobson.

Play 11: For this one, let’s allow the images to do most of the talking. Here’s what the play looks like to start:

This looks okay, right? Revis has a man to matchup with, and everyone else is in good position, with two deep safeties.

Things fall apart quickly. The safeties, circled in red, both come up and bite on the run fake. Johnthan Banks, circled in black, stays at home at the bottom of the image. He’s ready for whoever releases into the flat. Revis, circled at the top, is running with his receiver, with an eye in the backfield.

But Revis allows his man to get past him into what he thinks is deep safety help, and that makes two receivers running deep against Mark Barron, who actually slipped and fell on the play. Dashon Goldson bit hard on the playaction, and Barron fell, leaving the deep part of the zone defenseless.

Tom Brady doesn’t see his wide open receivers, and instead throws to Zach Sudfeld, who’s covered by the linebackers and Goldson who he ran through on a drag route before running up the field. The Buccaneers got lucky on this one.

Play 12: This is the crucial fourth down and two in the second quarter which the Patriots converted. The Pats stacked two receivers to the right of Tom Brady, and threw to the underneath man, who ran a quick out. Revis was lined up on that side of the field and took the receiver on the line of scrimmage, and Ahmad Black was the only defender in the area who could have possibly defended the open receiver Dobson.

As you can see, on fourth and short, the Patriots know from the snap that one of the two receivers at the bottom of the image are going to be open. Revis will cover one, and the other just needs to get into open space. That’s what happened.

After watching the entire half, I concluded that Revis was used in some sort of zone on just under half of the plays, and some of his man-t0-man coverage assignments included far too much cushion, which the Patriots exploited for short passes.

I understand that the Patriots have Tom Brady at quarterback, and that they lack a true number one receiver. But the Buccaneers continue to use Darrelle Revis in ways that don’t suit his talents, and it’s a waste of the million dollar per game salary he receives.