EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It was easier for rookie Malcolm Mitchell to get Darrelle Revis off his back once the whistle blew than it was getting him out of his mind before it first sounded.

Before twice beating the Jets’ once-unbeatable corner for touchdowns the respectful kid from Georgia had the reaction one might expect when he first spied the looming No. 24 moving confidently around the field during warm-ups at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. A future Hall of Famer in the opinion of many, Revis has long commanded the respect of opposing quarterbacks who for years seldom challenged him and of receivers unable to detach themselves from him but the truth is those days are behind him now. When it counted most Sunday, so was Malcolm Mitchell.

It was Mitchell’s second touchdown catch with 1:56 to play that saved the Patriots’ bacon while roasting Revis in a surprisingly tight 22-17 victory over the New York Jets that exposed both the resilience that has long made New England so difficult to beat and the vulnerabilities the Patriots now must wrestle with seemingly every Sunday.

“I tried to stay focused but I wasn’t ignorant of the fact it’s Revis,” Mitchell admitted not long after his 8-yard touchdown reception on a quick out route left longtime Revis observers wondering why he’d left Mitchell such a big a cushion.

“I didn’t think about it while we were playing. Maybe on the sideline or before the game in warm-ups but not during the game. He’s a football player just like me.”

Not always, but he certainly was Sunday. That first became clear midway through the second quarter when he beat Revis on a crossing route when the latter hesitated for a moment after Tom Brady mishandled a handoff attempt to Julian Edelman. Brady scooped the ball up, looked down field and there was Mitchell, outrunning Revis across the back of the end zone for what became a 4-yard touchdown that tied the game at 10-10.


“Malcolm did a great job running across the back end,” Brady said. “He gave me a chance to make the play. It’s not how we drew it up but it worked.”

Yet it was Mitchell’s response to a critical dropped pass on third-and-6 at the Jets’ 22 with just over seven minutes to play that said more about the young Patriot receiver than those two touchdowns did. Sometimes in life, it is adversity that measures you more distinctly than success. So it was with Mitchell Sunday.

Trailing by four points and struggling all day to make something happen, the Patriots were trying to answer a Jets score that had just given them the lead back and appeared to be on the cusp of doing it when Mitchell dropped what should have been an easy catch after he beat cornerback Darryl Roberts. When Mitchell came to the sideline, his head was down and so were his spirits.

“Of course I was down,” Mitchell said of the drop. “I think I was praying on the field to get another opportunity. I felt like I messed up an opportunity to win the game.

“We have a team full of great guys who kept me encouraged. I felt miserable after missing the earlier pass. All the guys kept me encouraged and told me we have more time.”

With Brady doing the throwing that always seems to be the case and so it was again Sunday, and when his time came again Mitchell’s hands did not let him down and Revis could not stop him from redemption.


In fact, Revis didn’t come anywhere near him as Mitchell broke out of a stack formation with Edelman behind him. Not so long ago, Revis might have reacted quicker and at the minimum have made the tackle at the 1- or 2-yard line but those days are behind him.

“Zero coverage,” Revis said. “We have to protect the inside. There was no middle safety on the field. We protected inside and they ran out routes. Great execution by those guys, seeing what coverage we were in. They basically executed better than we did on that play.”

Mitchell certainly did, although he was not sure Brady’s throw was coming to him,

“I just ran an out,” Mitchell said.

“At first I thought the ball was going to Julian but I realized he wasn’t reaching for it so I thought I should.”

Good idea. When he did, he left Revis exiled back on Mitchell Island rather than holding the commanding perch he once had when he ruled Revis Island, a solitary spot few quarterbacks tried to attack the way the Patriots did Sunday.

Twice he was beaten by Mitchell. Far more often than he expected, a rookie was testing him. No longer in awe once the whistle blew, Mitchell was not ignorant of whom Revis was but he wasn’t awed by whom he was, either.

“I think Malcolm has done a lot to gain everyone’s trust because he shows up every day, works his butt off and is so committed to the team,” Brady said. “

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