McCourty continues to make big plays


McCourty continues to make big plays

By Danny Picard

FOXBORO -- Second-year cornerback Kyle Arrington had the tough task of covering Randy Moss for most of the game on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. With some help over the top from safety Brandon Meriweather, Arrington got the job done, limiting Moss to only one reception for eight yards, while the Patriots defeated the Vikings 28-18.

But with double coverage on Moss, that opened things up for the Vikings' other flashy wideout, Percy Harvin.

Harvin had 6 receptions for 104 yards, but it was the one that was taken away from him, literally, that opened up Sunday's game.

Credit that to Patriots rookie cornerback Devin McCourty, who intercepted a Brett Favre pass that Harvin seemed to come down with in the third quarter. But as Harvin was falling to the ground with the ball, McCourty came over and basically ripped the ball out of his hands in a most bizarre type of exchange. McCourty took the ball away and ran 37 yards downfield, to the Vikings' 37-yard line.

"It was a little strange the way Harvin went to catch the ball," said McCourty. "I guess it bobbled a little and I was able to get my hand in there and then the ball bounced straight in the air, so I was able to intercept it."

The Patriots led by only four points at the time, 14-10, but McCourty's interception set up a 13-yard touchdown run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis, which gave New England a commanding 21-10 lead late in the third quarter.

It was, by all accounts, a game-changing play. And McCourty, by all accounts, has become a game-changing player in his so-very-young NFL career. His interception on Sunday marked the second interception of the season for the rookie. His first came last Sunday in San Diego.

McCourty has established himself as the team's top cornerback, and Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised him after Sunday's win for becoming such a solid player, so quickly.

"Devin has done a great job for us," said Belichick. "Once again, he came up with big plays today, several of them. He helps us on defense. He is a good, solid player. He's smart. He learns well. He really can execute the defensive system very consistently. He's been good in man and zone coverage. He tackles well. He's a smart kid, and I'm glad we have him."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard

EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?


EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?

On this episode of The Ex-Pats Podcast...

0:10 - Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen give their takeaways from the Patriots win over the Falcons including the defense coming up strong against Atlanta but New England still taking too many penalties.

2:00 - Why it felt like this game meant more to the Patriots, their sense of excitement after the win, and building chemistry off a good victory.

6:20 - Falcons losing their identity without Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator and their bad play calling and decisions on 4th downs.

10:00 -  A discussion about Matt Ryan not making the throws he needed against the Patriots and if he has falling off the MVP caliber-type player he was last season.

14:00 - How and why the Patriots secondary seems to be playing better without Stephon Gilmore and why Malcolm Butler has been able to turn up his play as of late.

Mother Nature gets between Belichick and his Patriots-Falcons film study


Mother Nature gets between Belichick and his Patriots-Falcons film study

If your team makes a goal-line stop in the fourth quarter, but you can't see it on the All-22 tape, did it even happen? 

Bill Belichick said the fog that hovered above the Gillette Stadium turf on Sunday night didn't impact the play on the field, but it did make its imprint on the game in other ways. First of all, spotters and coaches up at the press level had some difficulty relaying information to coaches on the sidelines. Video on the hand-held tablets for sideline use -- as well as the old-school still-frame pictures Belichick prefers -- was also obstructed. 

Then on Monday, as coaches tried to digest the film, the fog butted in on the process again. 

"It affected us a lot this morning because it’s hard to see the game," Belichick said during a conference call. "The fourth quarter is – I don’t know – pretty close to a white-out on the sideline film. The sideline cameras are at the top of the stadium, so that’s a tough shot.

"The end zone cameras are a little bit lower and they get a little tighter shot, so the picture is a little bit clearer. But, on that shot, a lot of times you’re not able to see all the guys on the perimeter. It’s kind of an in-line shot.

"Yeah, the first half, start of the third quarter, it’s all right. As they get into the middle of the third quarter and on, for those of us with aging eyes, it’s a little strained to see it, and then there’s a point where you can’t really see it at all, especially from the sideline. So, yeah, it affected us."

Belichick re-iterated that the fog didn't do much to the product on the field (other than maybe making life difficult for kick and punt-returners), refuting Julio Jones' claim from late Sunday night. When it came to digesting the film, though, that was another story.

"It was more, I’d say, just tougher for, whether it be our video camera or the fans that were sitting in the upper deck. It’s just there was too much interference there," Belichick said. "It was probably hard to see the game. I know when we tried to look at the pictures in between series – you know, I don’t look at the tablets, so I won’t get into that – but the pictures, it was kind of the same thing. It was hard to really be able to make out exactly what you were seeing."