By Todd Golden
INDIANAPOLIS — If you know your history, you know that island hopping was a major factor why the United States was on the victorious side in World War II.
The U.S. avoided Japanese strongholds in the Pacific theater, choosing to invade other islands, which choked off those strongholds as they moved closer to the Japanese home islands.
Cornerback Darrelle Revis is the unquestioned stronghold of the New York Jets’ defense. Some, including his coach Rex Ryan, thought he was a no-brainer choice as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Nearly every NFL observer considers him the best cover corner in the league. Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne, the man Revis would be focused on during Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, said he was going to spend the day on Revis Island.
Revis Island came out of Sunday’s game somewhat unscathed. Wayne wasn’t completely taken out of the game; he had three catches for 55 yards, although one of the catches occurred on the Colts’ first series when Revis was not covering Wayne.
However, it didn’t matter much that Revis mostly held up his end at corner. The Colts won their second AFC Championship since their 1984 move to Indianapolis with a 30-17 come-from-behind victory over the Jets because they chose the right islands to hop and avoid Revis.
Revis Island took minor shelling, but Dwight Lowery Island? It took heavy bombing. Drew Coleman Island was assaulted. Lito Sheppard Island also took fire.
It was the prudent strategy and with Peyton Manning at the helm, the Colts had a better chance than most to make it work.
But it also depended on Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie to hold up their end. They emphatically did so.
Garcon had the game of his life with 11 receptions for 151 yards and a touchdown. Collie had nine catches for 123 yards — a Colts’ rookie record — and a touchdown and was the go-to target on the Colts’ crucial pre-halftime two-minute drill, where Manning and Collie performed a 58-second dissection of the Jets’ defense to turn a disconcerting 17-6 Jets’ advantage into a manageable 17-13 halftime deficit.
“We work on that all the time and it’s a good thing we do. When the two-minute offense comes into play, it’s good to remain calm, it’s important to know exactly what you’re doing and be patient on every single route,” Collie said.
Both receivers, but Garcon in particular, made the Jets’ other corners look bad. Garcon ran solid patterns, putting just enough of a move on Lowery to get himself free to catch Manning’s ever-surgical passes. Collie saw a lot of Coleman, who came into the game when Jets’ nickel back Donald Strickland left the game in the first quarter. Collie was able to get a step on the Jets’ third-string cover man.
Manning and the receivers said throwing away from Revis was not done by design.
“We didn’t throw away from Revis. Reggie had three huge catches. Pierre was hot, and when a guy is hot you have to work him a little bit,” Manning said.
Garcon was hot, but when you look at the Colts’ receiving numbers and the Jets’ defensive stats, it can at least be said that the Colts weren’t exactly eager to lob balls with impunity onto Revis Island.
Revis did not defend a pass until there was less than a minute left in the first quarter. Wayne was only thrown to five times in the game. By contrast, Garcon, Collie and Dallas Clark were targeted 32 times. Revis lined up against Garcon a couple of times, but Lowery was the man assigned to Garcon, for the most part.
“They just made plays. We had some mistakes too, but for the most part, they just did a good job,” Lowery said.
Island hopping. It was the way to victory for the Colts. Now they can enjoy some time on Miami Beach at the Super Bowl.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.