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Devin McCourty: Patriots overcome ‘bad defense’ for an opportunistic win

11.11.12 at 9:40 pm ET
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Devin McCourty (32) has reason to smile and get congratulated from Steve Gregory after a game-clinching interception. (AP)

FOXBORO — Devin McCourty knows he and his Patriots defense got away with one on Sunday against the Bills.

Whether he was “living right” as he was asked afterward or just playing right, McCourty came up with the two biggest defensive plays of the day. He forced a C.J. Spiller fumble with 10 minutes left at the Patriots goal line that kept the Bills out of the end zone for three minutes.

Then, with the Bills at the Patriots 15 and threatening to score the game-winning touchdown, McCourty was in the right place at the right time when Ryan Fitzpatrick threw it into a group of four Patriots defensive backs. McCourty’s pick of the pass intended for T.J. Graham came with 23 seconds left and sealed a 37-31 win.

“Yeah, that was one of those right place, right time moments right there,” McCourty admitted afterward. “The ball [was] thrown right to me, so just making the catch and ending it was my focus at that time.”

Up until that point, it didn’t look so good.

The Bills had driven from their own 20 with 2:06 left to the Patriots 15 with little resistance, as the Patriots allowed completions of 21, 14 and 14 yards on the methodical march.

“Those last drives are always tough,” McCourty said. “The offense is throwing out whatever they haven’t called as their best stuff, they’re going to whatever works at that point in the game. So, when we get on the field defensively, it’s all about getting the stop we need defensively or a turnover or trying to make them go four-and-out. At that point, we’re just moving on each play, trying to get the stop. [If] that play’s gone, we’re trying to focus on the next play. Those two-minute drives are always tough. It went right down to the last second. That was big just to be able to go through that and get the win at the end.”

As for the forced a fumble at the one-yard line – recovered by Kyle Arrington – it’s another example of how important turnovers are to the Patriots existence.

“We know no matter what happens in the game, there’s nothing bigger than turnovers,” McCourty said. “I think throughout any level of football, turnovers are always a big part. A lot of times if you can just win that turnover ratio, you end up winning the game. We know each game we have to go out and win the turnover ratio. No matter what happens in the game, we have to come out on top with the turnover ratio.”

Here’s the rest of McCourty’s Q and A with reporters Sunday:

Q: Does the defense not worry about how many yards you’re giving up and just worry about making the play?

DM: No, definitely. We worry about that, but we also know you can’t fix them. Like on that run, we don’t want a guy running through the defense and getting to the two-yard line. But at that point, we had two guys on him; the next thing is trying to get the ball out. I think our guys defensively just fight each play and try to do whatever we can whatever happens within the game and making big plays.

Q: Did you get any sense on that last play that the ball could be coming to your area?

DM: Really at that time in the game, you know it could come really anywhere. You just try to focus on where the guys are that they like to throw to with [Scott] Chandler being a big target in the middle of the field and Stevie Johnson. Chandler lined up right in the middle so I knew it was a good chance it could be some type of play in the middle of the field. Right there he just threw it and I happened to be right there.

Q: What is it about your defense that you’re able to force turnovers at the right time?

DM: That’s a good question. I think it’s just the guys’ awareness. Our guys are fully aware of wherever the ball is. Whether it’s in coverage and the ball is in the air or if a guy is holding the ball we’re trying to get it out. We almost got one out at the end too with [Brandon] Spikes’ big hit on [Fred] Jackson. So, guys just have an awareness of the ball and trying to get to it.

Q: Danny Woodhead had two touchdowns today. What makes him so effective? Can you see him coming out of the backfield in practice?

DM: He’s tough. He does so many things well and the biggest thing is like you said, it’s hard to see him. I make fun of him all the time for his height, but he uses it to his advantage a lot. Whenever we’re on that bench and we see Woody with the ball in his hands we know he has a chance to make a big play. Whenever he comes out of that backfield, he usually has a matchup that he can win. For us, a good thing is he wins a lot of them. He’s a very consistent player for us and I think he does a great job.

Q: On a day like this, are you more frustrated that it was close or just happy that you got a win?

DM: The first thing I learned when I got to the NFL was that it’s hard to win each week. We never take that for granted. It’s big to come out and get a win, especially against a division team. Like any other game, we have to go work on the things we need to work on. We’ll break the film down. We still have seven more games to go and it’s all going to depend on how good and how well we improve over this time. If we can keep improving all the way down to the end of the season and string good games together and string wins together, we’ll be in good shape.

Q: Are you seeing improvement from a month ago?

DM: I think there’s some improvement out there and that’s a good thing. But then there are also some plays we know are happening and we know that we’re hurting ourselves more than anything. I think that’s a little frustrating, but I think that’s something you just have to keep attacking. I think football is that way. I think a lot of teams go through that; everyone has different problems on their teams, offensively, defensively and you just have to keep working and keep improving those things each week.

Q: Vince Wilfork was just saying that he was a little animated on the sideline at the end saying someone had to make a play. He said he could see several guys were buying into it. Were you one of those guys?

DM: Yeah, I think Vince, he’s a guy that echoes that a lot. He always says, ‘If we could get one big play out of everybody in the game, we’ll be in great shape.’ At the end of the game, he looked at all of us in the huddle, he brought it up and he said, ‘Devin, you just made a play, who is going to make the next play?’ We know when the game gets toward the end, those big plays, they change the game, they end up winning games at the end. As well as we want to play with yards and everything, we know at the end of the game, if you can make a big play, get a big turnover, get a big stop, that changes the game.

Q: Wouldn’t it be better to be in a position where you don’t have to make a big play at the end of the game?

DM: Definitely. I think every team wants to be in that position. Whatever way the game goes, you have to pull out the close ones. I think that shows the true characteristics of a team when you’re in a close battle and you have to fight down in the fourth quarter with two minutes to go and you have to win. Someone has to make a big play, someone has to play and play great.

Q: What does it say about your defense that you had them first-and-20 on the 10, first-and-10 on the six and they got out of the hole both times?

DM: Those two situations are bad defense. That’s what we want defensively: we want a team backed up in that situation. We’ll watch the tape and dissect what happened on those certain plays. You just look at it as bad defense. We just have to play better and take advantage of those situations. We work on those and I think there were times we did take advantage and we got turnovers, they had to punt a couple times. If we just played more consistent and get those things to happen, we’ll be in good shape.

I want to say thank you to all the veterans out there that represent our country. Today was big for us.

Read More: C.J. Spiller, Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, New England Patriots Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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