They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and Devin McCourty can certainly attest to that.
The second year cornerback was coming off of a Pro Bowl rookie season and appeared to poised to take things to the next level in his sophomore season, but like many others before him, he found out that it’s just not that easy.
McCourty’s heard the talk, but he’s confident heading into Sunday’s game. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
McCourty tied for second in the NFL last season in interceptions with 7, but it was his coverage skills along with his open field tackling that caught the eyes of most fans. Those who didn’t notice that part of his game at least must have been impressed with how tough he was, battling through cracked ribs and playing nearly every snap of his rookie season.
This season, things haven’t worked out quite as well as he hoped they probably would have. He struggled in coverage through the early part of the season, and then had injury added to insult after Sterling Moore drilled him during their win over the Jets back on November 13th.
Belichick eventually moved McCourty over to the safety position to try and allow him to see the field better, and so far it seemed to help build some confidence. As far as what’s been different, McCourty said it’s just the spacing because the routes he’s dealing vary more.
“It’s probably just the spacing,” McCourty told the media on Monday. “On the outside, you have the sideline and you can use that. On the inside, the guy has two ways to go, so you just try to take one away. That’s probably the biggest thing. Guys run different routes inside than outside, so you just have to study and understand how you will be attacked.”
He’s been attacked quite a bit this year, and has been part of a defense that certainly struggled against the pass. They finished 31st in total yards per game given up (411.1) and 31st in passing yards per game allowed (293.9). Considering how much the entire secondary struggled over the course of the season, McCourty admitted that the whole experience has actually helped bring them closer together.
“I think every football team is like that a little,” said McCourty when asked about the subject on Monday. “I know last year, coming in I was just a rookie, so it was my first time playing, but the other guys have been playing for a little while. Kyle [Arrington] was kind of new last year and we bonded throughout the season, your ups and downs. I think this season was the same.
“We had some bigger downs compared to last season but I think you have to, especially in the secondary. It’s an important part of the field, our play determines a lot of what goes on in the game. I think we definitely bonded throughout the good and the bad of the season.”
While they’ve allowed a lot of yards, they’ve been great about creating turnovers. The Patriots picked off 23 passes this season, tied for 2nd most in the league with San Francisco and three ahead of the Giants, who have 20. That’s only two fewer than they had all of last season.
But for now, what’s done is done. McCourty’s heard the talk all year, yet here he is – one game away from potentially winning a championship. As far as he’s concerned as long as he and his teammates believe in eachother, they’ll be fine.
“That’s how it goes. We have a great offense and we have had some down points. I think everyone will keep giving our offense the love and the respect, because they deserve it. As defensive guys, we just got out there and play. We have to do our part in this game. We believe in each other, we play for each other and that’s all that matters to us.”