Devin McCourty: I knew I had to ‘just keep fighting’
|12.25.11 at 12:49 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It could’ve been the nightmare before Christmas for Devin McCourty. But the cornerback who kept getting picked on in the first half rebounded in the second half Saturday to turn his day into a feel-good Christmas Story.
McCourty had a brutal first half, giving up a 39-yard pass to Brian Hartline on 3rd-and-9 down the right sideline on the game’s opening drive. That led to a Dolphins field goal.
In the second quarter, it only got worse. McCourty again got spun around down the right sideline, ending in a 47-yard pass from Matt Moore to Brandon Marshall. That led to a Moore to Marshall 19-yard TD strike and a 10-0 Miami lead.
“When you line up against Marshall a lot, you know they’re going to throw him the ball,” McCourty said. “Covering him, you know you’re going to get some balls your way. They have guys out there than can make plays. They were able to put the ball in the air. We made some plays and they definitely made some, too.”
On the next drive, the Patriots had the Dolphins pinned 3rd-and-12 at their own 9. Moore threw a ball too high for Hartline, but in his haste, McCourty tackled Hartline. Pass interference was the call and the Dolphins went on to complete an 11-play, 89-yard drive, ending in a touchdown that put the Dolphins up, 17-0.
The vibes were bad. The first half ended with the Patriots being booed, as Stephen Gostkowski missed a 51-yard field goal with three seconds left in the second quarter.
‘Just keep fighting,” McCourty said of his first half and the team’s performance. “We’ve got 30 minutes to go, we’ve got to keep playing. We can’t go out there and just concede losing. Just go out there, keep fighting and see what happens.’
But McCourty in that first half showed signs of mental toughness. He broke up a pass on the sideline on a 2nd-and-17 intended for Marshall. He broke up another pass to Marshall on the next drive over the deep middle.
And before the TD pass from Moore to Charles Clay, he broke up a potential TD pass to Marshall in the end zone.
But McCourty saved his biggest play for when it mattered the most. With the game tied, 17-17, Moore was driving the Dolphins in Patriots territory, McCourty noticed Moore dropping into a seven-step drop.
He immediately retreated and picked off Moore on a pass intended for Hartline at the Patriots 2. Tom Brady drove the Patriots 74 yards in 10 plays for the go-ahead score.
‘It felt pretty good. Finally got a chance to get one and reel it in, so it was a big play that helped the team out big time.
“We were able to turn the game around and get our offense sparked. We know if we give those guys a chance to make plays, they’re going to do it, they’re going to put points on the board.
What was the biggest lesson Saturday?
‘I think the biggest thing was to fight,” McCourty said. “To come out and go into halftime down 17, just to go back out there and show the character of this team. I think that was the biggest thing for this team, to be tested like that and come out with a victory.”
With the win, McCourty and the Patriots said “Merry Christmas” to their fans with a first-round bye.