Sep 29, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib (31) breaks up a pass in the end zone intended for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White (84) in the final seconds in the fourth quarter at the Georgia Dome. The Patriots won 30-23. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Darrelle Revis gets his own island, and Richard Sherman gets his own soap box to taunt from. After the spectacle put on by New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib during Sunday night’s game in Atlanta, Talib earned his own territory, “Area 31.” This territory, much like Revis island, is an isolated place where almost no completions happen and opposing receivers are isolated away from the game for long periods of time. One could argue that there is no bigger test of Talib’s status as a true shut-down corner than the one he just aced. During a prime-time game in Atlanta, a place where Matt Ryan had an impressive 34-7 career record, and defending against arguably the best WR duo in the NFL of Roddy White and Julio Jones, Talib had one of his best performances of his career. He sentenced the duo to Area 31 and finished the night being thrown to 8 times, allowing only 1 completion for 1 yard, and an interception. Not only are those stats impressive, but he came through in the clutch to swat away what would have been a game-tying touchdown in the final minute of play. The ball he turned away was well thrown by Matt Ryan, one of the best clutch QB’s in the NFL, to a not 100% healthy Roddy White, but a dominant receiver regardless.
Sep 29, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib (31) celebrates an interception in the second half against the New Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Patriots won 30-23. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Talib now leads the league with 4 interceptions in the first 4 games and also has a forced fumble and 7 passes defended. He had 4 interceptions in the 2011-2012 seasons combined, and has only hit that number three times in a season (4 as a rookie in 2008, 5 in 2009, 6 in 2010), so it’s safe to say he’s never played better. To contrast his season performance with other stellar corners, Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis both have 2 interceptions and 4 passes defended. Charles Tillman, star corner for the Chicago Bears, has 2 interceptions and 3 passes defended, and a forced fumble. The season is still very young, but if Talib continues to flourish and isolate receivers to “Area 31,” he’ll earn himself a huge contract at the end of the year. The Patriots will need him to be at his best to defend against quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, who will both make trips to Foxborough this season.