Jets opponents have known for some time now that it doesn't pay to throw the ball in the direction of Darrelle Revis, who is widely considered the best cover cornerback in the NFL.
The 2007 first-round draft pick made the Pro Bowl each of the previous two seasons, when he had a combined 11 interceptions even though quarterbacks were hesitant to challenge him. The 5-11, 198-pound, 25-year-old doesn't have any interceptions this season, but it's interesting to consider the puny numbers that elite wide receivers have posted against him.
The Lions' Calvin Johnson, who has 73 receptions for 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns, caught one pass for 13 yards against Revis on Nov. 7. The Bengals' Terrell Owens, who caught 72 passes for 983 yards and nine touchdowns before a knee injury ended his season last week, caught three passes for 17 yards when Revis was on him Nov. 25. The Texans' Andre Johnson, who has 86 catches for 1,216 yards and eight scores, caught four passes for 32 yards against Revis on Nov. 21.
None of them caught a TD pass on "Revis Island," where wide receivers go to die.
Still, the 10-4 Bears say they cannot simply concede one side of the field and admit they can't make plays in the vicinity of the Jets' shutdown corner Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field.
"You can't assume that," Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said. "We've got good receivers, and we trust the guys. They are going to play man to man, and we'll tell those guys they're going to have to get open. Whatever it takes, we're going to have to find a way to complete balls. You can't eliminate one side of the field. It's too hard to do. It gives them too much of an advantage. So Johnny [Knox] and Devin [Hester] and those guys are going to have to find a way."
It's not as if it's easy pickings on the other side of the field, where Jets 6-2, 210-pound cornerback Antonio Cromartie has team bests with three interceptions and 17 pass breakups.
While the 10-4 Jets are last in the NFL in interception percentage, they are No. 9 in passing yards allowed, No. 4 in average gain per pass allowed and No. 9 in sack percentage.
"We'll be able to see how far we've come as receivers, going against one of the elite corners in the league," Hester said. "With Cromartie as well. He's a great corner, too, so it's a big challenge for our receivers to find out how far along we are."
The Bears' diversity in the passing game can be an advantage against dominant corners like Revis because Chicago doesn't depend on just one go-to guy.
In the past four games, three different players – Knox, Earl Bennett and Hester – have led the team in receiving yards. Those three, plus running back Matt Forte and tight end Greg Olsen, have all had weeks in which they led the team in receptions. Those five each have between 35 and 47 receptions this season, and they each have three to five touchdown catches.
Offensive coordinator Mike Martz will not shy away from Revis, but he will proceed with caution when attacking him.
"You have to be careful in how you approach it," Martz said. "It doesn't mean you don't do it. You just have to be careful in how you're going to do it and give your guys the best opportunity for success. He's very consistent, very, very, very confident in his skills and does not overreact. He is as good as I have seen in many years. But that doesn't mean that you don't create opportunities over there, too. It's a terrific challenge for our guys, there's no question."
NOTES AND QUOTES
His flattening of Brett Favre may wind up being the last play of the future Hall of Famer's career, since he suffered what the Vikings are calling a concussion on the play. Wootton said if he'd known that Favre was hurt, he would have toned down his post-sack chest-bump celebration.
"I had no clue he was hurt," said the fourth-round pick from Northwestern. "I walked toward the sideline and then turned around and everyone was pointing. I wouldn't celebrate if someone was hurt."
"He'll probably get fined," linebacker Brian Urlacher said, only half in jest.
Wootton beat veteran tackle Bryant McKinnie on the play.
"I felt like I got a pretty good get-off on that," he said. "It's something I've been trying to work on every week." ...
Part of the reason Julius Peppers signed with the Bears in the offseason is that he saw the team's potential for success. Since coming aboard, he's seen a strong work ethic.
"I've seen these guys every day, working," Peppers said. "I see the type of players we have on the team, and I see the coaches. The coaches don't accept anything but our best, and any time you have that combination of things working together, good things gotta happen. It's like the football gods. They make sure good things happen to people who work hard and do things right." ...
Hester is anxious to add on to the NFL record he set Monday night for kick-return touchdowns, but he probably won't get many opportunities against the Jets on Sunday, especially on punts.
"I think it's pretty safe to say we're planning on not kicking to him," Jets coach Rex Ryan said during Wednesday morning's conference call. "I think you can write that down, as everybody else I'm sure doesn't want to kick to him. I don't think you can deal with him. As a returner, it's ridiculous. He's got to go down as the best punt returner in the history of the game."
Ryan said he's also been impressed with Hester as a receiver, along with the rest of the Bears' wideouts.
"You've got two guys that are blazing fast," Ryan said. "Really, that whole receiving group over there, with Knox and Hester and Earl Bennett, and then the kid that I can't pronounce his name, No. 19 (Devin Aromashodu). It's a good group. Those guys, especially Knox and Hester, they're hard to deal with, that's for sure." ...
The "experts" on "Monday Night Football" spent a lot of time critiquing and criticizing Cutler's footwork in the Vikings game, when his passer rating was 106.6. He doesn't care.
"No one knows what we're trying to get done with this offense, so no one knows the hot reads. No one knows my reads at all," Cutler said. "No one knows what we're trying to do with the offensive line, what we're doing with receivers. You guys don't have a clue, so it doesn't bother us, doesn't bother anybody in that locker room. We're going to continue doing what we do, and as long as we're winning games, good things are going to happen. I mean, I don't read it. For the most part, I talk to Mike, and as long as Mike's good with what I'm doing, then I'm good."
QUOTE TO NOTE
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