Chess match with Aaron Rodgers gave Patriots defense a growth opportunity

Chess match with Aaron Rodgers gave Patriots defense a growth opportunity

The desired scenario for every team as a season progresses is … progress. Going against Aaron Rodgers on Sunday night provided another chance for growth, said Devin McCourty. And that growth often comes after plays that don’t go well.

On Monday night’s Quick Slants, Devin and his brother Jason McCourty discussed the 51-yard play early in the second half where Aaron Rodgers found Marquez Valdes-Scantling getting inside Jason McCourty on a deep post.

Jason said after the game that, realizing Rodgers was calling for enhanced protection against the blitz the Patriots were showing meant he should have backed off on the third-and-6 play. Jason initially thought the pressure would get there but when he brought players in closer to the formation, it was a sign he knew what was coming and that the blitz might not get there.

But after the play, Devin said he believed it was his mistake.

“I got mad because we’re up there moving around and I realize we should have checked out of that defense,” said Devin. “I was looking at (Rodgers) and he was talking and pointing and I’m realizing he’s figuring it out.

“Right after the play, I looked at (linebacker Kyle) Van Noy and said, ‘We should have got out of that.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ (Rodgers) knew what was coming.”

After nine games, McCourty said, he has a better feel for what everyone from front to back can deal with on the fly and how to make adjustments against a quarterback who’s figuring things out.

“We have key guys who understand what we want to do as a defense, they understand our concepts and what we’re in and can check to that’s easy for everybody and it’s been a good mesh,” he explained. “KV and (Donta Hightower) will always handle the front and I’ll only try to check into things that are easy for them to check the front and are easy for us on the back end to check into as well. That was a learning experience going against a guy like that in that situation.”

Earlier in the game, a similar “zero coverage blitz” (no safety in the middle of the field providing help) got home with Devin McCourty getting a pressure and forcing a Rodgers throwaway. But the cat-and-mouse game was on all game, said Jason McCourty.

“Early in the game, Dev and (Duron Harmon) were disguising something but they got out right before (Green Bay was) about to snap the ball. (Rodgers) saw it and he held the snap (as they backed off) and he laughed at them,” said Jason. “His poise and his knowledge of the game, he is under control and understands everything that’s going on.”

Even though Jason gave up the 51-yarder, he had a terrific game otherwise with two pass-breakups downfield and a sequence when he was covering Randall Cobb on consecutive plays that led to a Green Bay punt. 

“His play showed the character of our defense,” said Devin. “He gives up a 50-yard play, they come back at him, he takes care of the bubble screen for no gain. Third down, they come back at him he has Cobb covered, incomplete, we’re off the field. That to me was that type of game. We were gonna miss on some plays but we had to hang in there.”

Jason McCourty joked that he’s been able to make plays because he’s the corner getting help. Stephon Gilmore, he said, is out there 1-on-1 and shutting receivers like Green Bay’s Davante Adams down.

“He’s definitely the best corner in the league this year,” said Jason.

The Patriots relished the chance to face Rodgers, said Devin.

“Our D-line coach, Brendan Daly said it best on Saturday night. He said, ‘Enjoy this. There’s not many times you’ll get a chance to go against first-ballot Hall of Famers, elite of the elite among the quarterbacks to ever play. Enjoy it. You’ll tell your grandkids about it. But more important, be able to tell your grandkids you won rather than everyone else who has to tell their grandkids he dropped 400 yards and five TDs on you.”

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Rich Eisen on 'positively absurd' Spygate 2.0

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Rich Eisen on 'positively absurd' Spygate 2.0

Like most of the rest of the NFL world, Rich Eisen of the NFL Network is amazed that we are talking about what has become known as Spygate 2.0 - the Patriots again being accused of taping an opposing teams' sideline - and the repercussions surrounding it. 

He joined Tom E. Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast to provide a little national perspective on the controversy and his first reaction was how "positively absurd" it was that the Pats are being accused of the same behavior that they were punished for back in 2007.

"If the Patriots did attempt something like this again, how remarkably brazen it would be?" Eisen told Curran. "I couldn't imagine being in that press box and seeing that happen? That's what makes it so positively absurd. How does anybody that represents anything to do with the Patriots not know you're not supposed to shoot the other team's sideline?''

Eisen predicted that the Patriots' admission of a "unintended oversight" in taping the sideline of the Cincinnati Bengals while they were playing the Browns in Cleveland on Sunday and Bill Belichick's adamant denial of knowing anything about the operation, won't prevent a hefty fine from being leveled by the NFL against the team. 

I'm sure there are a lot of people who are breathing fire at One Patriot Place," Eisen said. "Even if it was a clueless botched operation, I think the Patriots get fined. They still shot video of another teams' sideline and bottom line is that's a no-no, an absolute no-no.

"I'm assuming its a hefty fine for the team that's coming."


Eisen's comments come near the end of the episode. Former Patriots backup quarterback Matt Cassel joins Curran earlier and talks about how the original Spygate accusations back in '07 were a motivating factor for a Patriots team that went on to a 16-0 regular season.

"We were shocked at how it took on a life of its own," Cassel recalled. "It honestly was comical the way they took it, with people thinking we had it all figured out, we filmed them and we knew all their signs. The best thing that possibly could've happened is we came out for the rest of the season after the knowledge that Spygate took place and everyone saying 'That's why they won their Super Bowls' and we just dominated." 

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Week 15 NFL Power Rankings: Patriots continue to slide in AFC

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Week 15 NFL Power Rankings: Patriots continue to slide in AFC

Through 13 weeks, it’s become clear that there are six good teams in the AFC and one very good, maybe great team. The Ravens are a complete team: offense, defense, special teams, coaching, situationally smart, tough, you name it.

Everybody else has the flaw that they’ll either need to cover up or overcome in the playoffs to get past Baltimore.