ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Devin McCourty's pick-six in the fourth quarter Monday night gave the Patriots all they needed for their 25-6 division win over the Bills. It provided them with the breathing room to move to 6-2. It was a second turnover when the Patriots needed it most. It gave them something to celebrate.
But to appreciate the play, aside from the impressive speeds McCourty hit as he streaked down the sideline, there are a few elements to consider.
First, consider the situation.
The Patriots had just scored their first touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter to make the score 18-6. But they were letting Buffalo drive, all the way to their 30-yard line, and they needed to put a stop to it.
CURRAN'S HARD TRUTHS
Next, consider the play itself.
The Bills showed a three-by-one set with tight end Charles Clay in the slot aligned across from Patrick Chung. The Patriots gave a split-safety look.
"We kind of all knew what was coming," Devin McCourty said. "Me talking to Chung before the play. Trying to show one thing, and jumping the route and just trying to get in the end zone, just knowing that's kind of what we needed."
McCourty took a step toward the sideline, feigning as though he had the deep left half of the field as far as Anderson was concerned. Get Anderson to see Cover-2, was likely the goal.
Instead, McCourty crashed down on Clay's skinny post -- Chung likely let Clay work inside in order to give Anderson the confidence to throw it -- and made an easy interception.
"Just tried to bait him into the throw a little bit," McCourty said.
Then, consider the celebration.
McCourty returned his pick 84 yards for a touchdown, touching 22 miles per hour on his jaunt, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, giving him the fastest recorded time for a ball-carrier this season.
Devin McCourty reached a top speed of 22.05 MPH on his 84-yard INT return TD, the fastest speed reached by a ball carrier this season.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) October 30, 2018
McCourty is the first ball carrier this season to reach 22+ MPH.#NEvsBUF #GoPats pic.twitter.com/lwWE5o8U4W
“It was just cool because once I got back to the sideline, all the guys were all over it, telling me about [the record]," McCourty said. "I’m not really worried about me losing a step. I just go out there and play. Today I got to showcase a little bit of the speed. So, 31, hopefully, I can hold on to my speed a little bit longer.”
Tom Brady, Matthew Slater, James Develin, Brian Hoyer and others all met McCourty in the end zone to celebrate. Kyle Van Noy waved goodbye to Bills fans as they streamed out of the stadium. Jason McCourty partied with his brother following a score for the first time in a decade, when Jason had a pick-six for Rutgers against South Florida.
“If I wasn’t behind him, then I might've beat him into the end zone, but man, that was a huge play,” Jason said. “At that point in the game, to get a pick and then to take it a distance, I think that’s what we rely on him for."
CURRAN'S HARD TRUTHS
“You see those high knees? He had perfect form," Van Noy said. "I mean, what a ballplayer he is. I think a lot of people don’t understand what he does for a team, his leadership on and off the field. And just as a player, his being able to do so much and take on so much volume that’s thrown at him is pretty insane. To be able to have a player like that and a leader like that, I’m humbled to play with him. I hope he gets that red coat [for the Patriots Hall of Fame]. I call him 'Red Coat' all the time. He deserves it."
For Jason, someone who'd been on the scene for big plays in wins over the Chiefs and Colts recently, the play was a highlight to reward the consistency Devin tries to bring to his gig on a daily basis.
"Obviously, some of the games, giving up some plays," Jason said. "Then he’s just been steady. Continuing to be a leader, hasn’t flinched, hasn’t got down on himself. Just continued to work, continued to push everybody, so for him to make that play obviously I’m excited for him, but the whole team, that’s what we expect out of him in the game like that in prime time, so that was a huge, I think, dagger for them . . .
"You look at him last week in the Chicago game, just doing everything he was supposed to do. Spying on the quarterback. There was a time he blitzed [Mitch] Trubisky, kept him in the pocket, jumped up and was able to pressure him on a throw. Holding the edge on [Tarik] Cohen. I think just making those consistent plays -- it doesn't always have to be a pick-six or a huge pass breakup, but just always doing what you're supposed to do -- and that's the type of player he is.
"That's how he's attained the level of success he's had and how he's been a steady leader and captain here. Just having that consistent play. Seeing him do that play after play and continue to work and not let anything prior affect him in the future, it's always fun to watch. That's what you expect from a captain and a leader."
Lastly, consider what the twin brother did for his womb-mate, following the play. He gave Devin a play off.
Praise from one brother to the next is relatively rare -- Jason saying "I might've beat him . . . " are more the rule than the exception -- but Devin knew he'd parlay his big play into something.
"I think the biggest praise he could give was him sprinting down there [to celebrate], knowing that I was gonna go ask him to go and get me on kickoff," Devin said. "You gotta appreciate a guy that'll give it all to come celebrate with you and then take your spot on the kickoff team."
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