Patriots

Patriots receive motivational lift from playoff-hungry Jason McCourty

Patriots receive motivational lift from playoff-hungry Jason McCourty

Jason McCourty's piece on the Players' Tribune, published on Friday, hits on a variety of topics we didn't previously know.

-- Bill Belichick still may occasionally call McCourty by his twin brother's name accidentally.

-- McCourty found out the Titans might be moving on from him when the team expressed interest in signing his friend and former Patriots corner Logan Ryan.

-- When the McCourty twins squared off for a boxing match as kids, Devin threw the first punch.

But there was one element to Jason's story that has been relatively apparent, and never more so than when he had one of the best games of his season against the Bills in Week 16: Even as one of the team's most experienced players, he's brought the Patriots some new energy.

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"We ended up clinching against Buffalo a couple of days before Christmas," McCourty wrote, "after I got a late interception to seal the game. When I ran over to the sidelines, all the guys were waiting there to celebrate with me."

How do teams who've experienced so much success continue to motivate themselves? That's something Belichick and his staff -- both coaching and in the front office -- have to be aware of constantly. Roster turnover can help . . . particularly adding a player like McCourty, a veteran who has never experienced the type of success he's experiencing this year in New England.

McCourty wrote in the Players' Tribune that he wasn't sure if he'd even make the team when he was playing safety late in the preseason finale. But as he earned his role on this year's roster -- playing as the team's No. 2 corner for much of the season -- he's felt overwhelming support from those around him.

"As the year went on, I got more chances to play and carved out a role for myself," McCourty explained. "And the guys on the team, knowing I’d never made it to the playoffs, rallied around that. They wanted to win for me, which meant a lot."

I asked Duron Harmon what it's been like having McCourty as part of the mix this year and if McCourty's hunger for success has rubbed off on anyone else.

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"Hungry for the team's success, for sure," Harmon said. "Hungry to win. When you have great teammates like we have in here, you want to do everything in your power to do your job the best that you can."

Harmon added: "The coaches are going to make sure you're always motivated here, but when you have guys like J-Mac, who are great teammates, the motivation stays high because you never want to let down the man next to you."

The Patriots will use any bit of motivation they can get this week. Perhaps they'll point to the fact that the Chargers haven't lost outside of L.A. County. Perhaps they'll hear that more than 60 percent of wagers against the spread (Patriots are favored by 4.5) are going to the Chargers, the widest gap of any Divisional Round game, per the Action Network.

Or maybe just being around McCourty this week, a 31-year-old desperate for a taste of the playoff success his brother has experienced, will give them a boost.

"The thing about this locker room is everybody's selfless," Harmon said. "Everybody's playing for the next man. Nobody's really playing for himself . . . The mindset of the team is to win for the guy next to you. And when you have a guy like that, J-Mac, such a selfless person, great leader, great person, it just adds to you wanting to win that much more for your teammate, for your brother. We sacrifice so much playing this game, playing for this team, when you have somebody like that, it makes it really, really easy to play for them."

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Here's how Tom Brady, Jared Goff have made Super Bowl history with their ages

Here's how Tom Brady, Jared Goff have made Super Bowl history with their ages

Super Bowl LIII between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams will be a matchup of youth vs. experience in several ways, and nowhere else is that more evident than the quarterback position.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is more than 17 years older than Rams quarterback Jared Goff, and that represents the largest age gap between starting QBs in Super Bowl history.

Brady's first Super Bowl title, ironically enough, came 17 years ago when the Patriots beat the then-St. Louis Rams 20-17 on Adam Vinatieri's game-winning field goal. Goff was just seven years old when that Super Bowl was played.

Brady has been great in the playoffs so far, including Sunday's AFC Championship Game win against the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime. He led a go-ahead drive late in the fourth quarter and won the game in overtime with another clutch drive highlighted by multiple third-down conversions. Goff, in fairness, played pretty well himself against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game and led a late drive to tie the game late, and like Brady, engineered a game-winning march in OT.

Goff is one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL. So is Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and Brady forced him to wait at least another season before lifting the Lombardi Trophy, and you can bet the Patriots QB is dead set on making Goff wait as well.

 

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Rob Gronkowski admits Patriots-Chiefs was "biggest team win" of his career

Rob Gronkowski admits Patriots-Chiefs was "biggest team win" of his career

Rob Gronkowski has played in a lot of important games for the New England Patriots, and Sunday's thrilling AFC Championship win in overtime against the Kansas City Chiefs will stand out in the veteran tight end's mind for a very long time.

"It was just the biggest team win, I would say, probably that I've been a part of," Gronkowski told ESPN's Jeff Darlington. "Going on the road, winning a playoff game, which I never have -- been on the road for playoff games but never won one on the road, so this one's special." 

Gronkowski hauled in six receptions for 79 yards on nine targets. His clutch third-down conversion on the Patriots' final drive in regulation was a remarkable catch, and it helped set up running back Rex Burkhead's go-ahead score with less than a minute left on the clock. The 29-year-old tight end, like he did in the AFC Divisional Round win over the Los Angeles Chargers, also dominated the Chiefs as a blocker in the run game.

Injuries prevented Gronkowski from playing in Super Bowl LI, but he played in Super Bowl XLIX and Super Bowl LII and caught a touchdown in both games. You know he'll be itching to catch another score against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII in what could be his last game as a Patriot.

 

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