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Devin McCourty says ‘angry’ Patriots defense rallied with 3 interceptions 01.15.17 at 3:04 am ET
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FOXBORO — Sometimes you have to give yourself a kick in the backside to get going.

That’s apparently all it took for the Patriots trio of Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon to pick it up after what they felt was a less-than stellar first half Saturday.

Leading just 17-13 at the half, the three Rutgers products each had a second-half interception of Brock Osweiler and helped to shut down the Texans in New England’s 34-16 win Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.

What was the key to the turnaround in the second half?

“Really, we were angry with ourselves,” McCourty said. “The first three points they got was a penalty on us that extended a drive on a third-down stop. Then, even in the red area, we held them to three on a sudden change, and then the touchdown, myself and Duron [Harmon], we could have got ourselves in a better defense.

“Going into halftime, we just looked at each other like, ‘We’ve just got to play better. Do what we’re supposed to do and make them earn it.’ We did that, we did a better job of that, but they came and they fought hard. I think they came and tried to play a complete game as a team and we had to battle through some ups and down. But that’s what the playoffs are about, finding a way to win.”

Osweiler was actually quite effective if not spectacular in the first half, completing eight of his first 10 passes before the Patriots pressure started getting to him. He finished the first half 13-of-20 for 83 yards. He was sacked twice but did throw a touchdown  –  and did not turn it over.

In the second half, the Rutgers trio flipped that script. McCourty had the first pick in the third quarter in front of the Texans sideline on a ball for DeAndre Hopkins.

“That was just a little bit of what we do coverage-wise,” McCourty explained. “I knew I had to get on him tight. He’s a go-to guy in that situation, third or second, I think it was third down. I just tried to stay tight on him and was able to make a play on the ball.”

In the fourth quarter, Ryan picked off an Osweiler pass over the middle and returned it to the Houston 6. Two plays later, Dion Lewis ran it in. And then, with the game in hand, Harmon stepped in front of a pass for tight end Ryan Griffin at the Patriots 3 with three minutes left.

“In the end we were able to take the ball away and play good in the red-area defensively,” Bill Belichick said. “That was helpful, and able to come away with more points. A big day for Rutgers, a big day for Rutgers. They all had interceptions. We love to see that, love to see them for anybody but especially when we get three of them. That was big.”

The Patriots defense may not have faced the stiffest test in the world Saturday but they started to feast on a quarterback that was wilting under their pressure in the second half and they were able to seal the deal late. That’s a good formula in the playoffs.

“Those guys have been getting after the quarterback,” McCourty said of the pressure from Ryan, Malcom Brown and Rob Ninkovich, all of whom recorded sacks. “A lot of people have said how bad we are rushing the passer, so I guess they’ll evaluate this and they’ll probably still say we’re bad at it, but we know what we can do up front, and I think it’s the back end talking to the front end, the front end talking to us, and we just keep everybody going. When they’re able to get after the quarterback and we feel that, we’re getting after it and trying to make good plays in the back end.

“Really, my interception was a ball that was behind, Logan’s was a high ball. That comes from the front. That’s the front causing pressure, making sure the quarterback’s not just back there and feeling comfortable, that’s them. That’s always – when you’re playing good in the secondary and getting interceptions, that’s usually because those front four, the front seven are doing a good job. Complementary football – that’s the way we’ve been winning and we’ve got to continue to do that.”

Read More: Devin McCourty, houston texans, Malcom Brown, New England Patriots
Devin McCourty gives Matt Patricia a ringing endorsement for his job interviews this weekend 01.04.17 at 1:50 pm ET
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Matt Patricia reportedly will interview with the Chargers and Rams this weekend. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Matt Patricia reportedly will interview with the Chargers and Rams this weekend. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — One thing either the Chargers or 49ers are looking for in their coaching search is someone who can re-energize their languishing programs.

While the Chargers need a spark to re-enter consideration for the 2017 AFC playoff race, the 49ers need a full overhaul just to be competitive after firing their head coach and general manager.

If energy is what either San Diego or San Francisco is looking for, then Devin McCourty thinks they should look at Matt Patricia very closely this weekend.

“I would just say for us he’s been great,” McCourty said. “I don’t know anything about what it will be or how, but I think for us as players getting the opportunity to play under him has been great. Just his energy, his drive to be perfect, to get everything right for us. I think how much he cares about the defense and about the guys in that room I think really gets guys going and you have a great appreciation for what he’s doing and what he’s trying to do.

“I mean the time he spends here, the little things he does for us I think as a defense sticks out. I think that’s the first thing new guys, rookies, young guys, you learn as soon as you play under him, is really how much he cares and how much he wants to get better as a group. I think this year showed that he put a lot into it and it’s worked out well for us as a defense with him at the top leading us. We’ve just got to continue to do the things that we’ve been doing and listen to him.”

The 42-year-old Patricia, who has never held a head coaching job at any level, reportedly has already agreed to talk with the Chargers and 49ers this weekend about their job openings. Patricia has been the defensive coordinator in New England since 2012.

McCourty also gave credit to Patricia – at least indirectly – for helping to keep the defensive unit together and on the same page in the wake of several issues that cropped up over the season, including the trade of Jamie Collins and the benching of Jabaal Sheard.
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Read More: Devin McCourty, matt patricia, New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers
Pro Football Focus shows love for Patriots with All-Pro team at 11:21 am ET
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Marcus Cannon was named to Pro Football Focus' 2016 All-Pro Team. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

Marcus Cannon was named to Pro Football Focus’ 2016 All-Pro Team. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Pro Football Focus released its All-Pro team on Wednesday and the Patriots were well-represented.

The Patriots had two players named to the first-team in Tom Brady and Malcolm Butler. They also had three players get named to the second-team in Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty and Marcus Cannon. Of those players, Cannon and Butler were not named to the Pro Bowl.

[UPDATE: James Develin was named to the second-team, as well.]

Pro Football Focus noted Brady had the highest-graded season of the past decade at PFF. It also noted Cannon made the second-team because of his run blocking, which distinguishes him from the rest of the solid group of tackles in the league.

It’s nice to see Cannon get recognized on a national level for his play this season, as he’s arguably been the Patriots’ best offensive linemen this season.

Although making the Pro Bowl, LeGarrette Blount and Matthew Slater did not make Pro Football Focus’ list.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Devin McCourty, Dont'a Hightower, Malcolm Butler, Marcus Cannon
Why Bill Belichick doesn’t ‘give a damn about playoff experience’ at 11:16 am ET
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IMG_1963

Devin McCourty speaks Wednesday about getting ready for the playoffs. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — One of the cliches of NFL playoff football is that “experience matters” come crunch time.

Well, according to Devin McCourty, the Patriots head coach is not one of those fond that particular expression at this time of year.

Asked Wednesday what he says to older veterans – like Martellus Bennett or Chris Long with little or no playoff experience – McCourty pointed out what he was reminded once by Bill Belichick.

“You don’t have to say much,” McCourty began. “I always remember my rookie year (2010) when Bill came in there and he always harped on around this time everyone talks about experience and having guys with playoff experience. He came in there and said ‘I don’t give a damn about playoff experience.’ It’s all about who executes and plays their best football this time of year. Whether you’re a guy who’s played in 12 playoff games or whether you’re a rookie, he’s said he’s seen examples of both who have come out and played great and those who have come out and played terrible.

“He said ‘Does it help? Maybe.’ He said it doesn’t matter if you don’t come out and play, so I think for those guys, their biggest thing is they’ve played, they’ve played football for years now. Just zero in and playing your best football right now is what’s important and I think they understand that more than anybody because this is what they’ve waited for and this is what they’ve wanted.”

Ironically, that 2010 Patriots team also finished 14-2 with the No. 1 AFC seed, but was shocked by the Jets in the AFC divisional around and sent home early.

Chris Hogan said Wednesday he’s getting his mind around the feeling of preparing for the next level of football. McCourty will be there to help him make that adjustment.

“So, you just let those guys go out there and play. Both of those guys are true professionals, come into work day-in and day-out, put in a lot of work, help the team out,” McCourty said. “I think they’re both ready to go. You look for them to be leaders for even the younger guys or guys that have less NFL experience.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty, New England Patriots,
Success of Patriots offensive line in 2016 is rooted in consistency and continuity 01.03.17 at 11:50 am ET
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The Patriots offensive line has stayed remarkably healthy over the course of the 2016 season. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

The Patriots offensive line stayed remarkably healthy over the course of the 2016 regular-season. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

Who gets the award as the Patriots’ ironman for the 2016 regular season? Rookie guard Joe Thuney came awfully close, keeping his consecutive snap streak alive deep into the year. While no one went wire-to-wire, the durability of New England’s offensive line was very impressive; the Patriots were fundamentally able to roll out the same five guys over the course of the season. That level of continuity and consistency played a sizable role in the fact that quarterback Tom Brady had excellent protection all year long, as well as the fact that running back LeGarrette Blount was just the fifth 1,000-yard back of the Bill Belichick Era.

Here’s a look at the top 10 snap counts for both sides of the ball for this past regular season. (Note: The data here is from a combination of sources, including personal press box tallies, as well as cross-checks with official NFL boxscores and Pro Football Reference.)

Offense
1. LG Joe Thuney: 1,114 snaps
2. C David Andrews: 1,114 snaps
3. RT Marcus Cannon: 1,031 snaps
4. LT Nate Solder: 1,029 snaps
5. RG Shaq Mason: 1,017 snaps
6. WR Julian Edelman: 874 snaps
7. TE Martellus Bennett: 867 snaps
8. WR Chris Hogan: 829 snaps
9. QB Tom Brady: 817 snaps
10. WR Malcolm Mitchell: 538 snaps

Defense
1. S Devin McCourty: 1,022 snaps
2. CB Malcolm Butler: 1,008 snaps
3. S Patrick Chung: 1,006 snaps
4. CB Logan Ryan: 897 snaps
5. LB Dont’a Hightower: 708 snaps
6. DE Chris Long: 677 snaps
7. DL Alan Branch: 626 snaps
8. DL Malcom Brown: 596 snaps
9. DL Jabaal Sheard: 579 snaps
10. DL Trey Flowers: 563 snaps

Read More: David Andrews, Devin McCourty, Joe Thuney, Marcus Cannon
3 up, 3 down following Patriots 35-14 win over Dolphins 01.01.17 at 8:18 pm ET
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Logan Ryan

Logan Ryan

At first glance, here are three up and three down in the wake of Sunday’s 35-14 win over the Dolphins.

3 up
Tom Brady: The quarterback’s performance wasn’t on par with some of his other outings earlier in the year, but he was razor sharp in the early going, helping to set the tone right out of the gate. He was 19-for-24 for 161 yards and a pair of touchdowns in he first half, and helped quash any thoughts of a Miami upset. Overall, he was 25-for-33 for 276 yards and three touchdowns. (Bonus points for his six-yard scramble in the first quarter that managed to keep an early drive alive.) Not great, but certainly good enough to go into the postseason on a positive note.

Julian Edelman: The receiver had eight catches on 13 targets for 151 yards (all game highs) and a touchdown, helping the Patriots move the chains and keeping the Miami secondary on its heels all afternoon.

Devin McCourty/Logan Ryan: The Rutgers duo had an excellent afternoon, with McCourty forcing a second-half fumble that was scooped up by teammate Shea McClellin and returned deep into Miami territory. Meanwhile, Ryan came away with his second pick in the last three games.

3 down
Red-zone offense: The Patriots had two drives stall out in the red zone (both of them at the Miami 8-yard line), and they had to settle for a pair of field goals. New England has done well to minimize those issues over the course of the season, but with multiple instances of drives hitting the wall inside the opposition’s 20 the last four games, it’s something that needs to be addressed going into the postseason.

Coverage at start of the second half: The coverage was pretty good for much of the afternoon, but there appeared to be multiple breakdowns on Miami’s first drive of the second half, one that ended with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Matt Moore to Kenny Stills. Whatever the problem was, however, it was quickly rectified, as the Dolphins got no closer on the day.

Second-half penalties: The Patriots picked up a couple of bad penalties in the second half, including an offensive holding call on Geneo Grissom on a punt return that sent the Patriots all the way back to their own 8-yard line. In addition, LeGarrette Blount marred an otherwise positive day with a late facemask call after getting tangled up with Ndamukong Suh. (Their scrape is certainly something worth keeping an eye on if these two teams meet against in the postseason.)

Read More: Devin McCourty, Geneo Grissom, Julian Edelman, LeGarrette Blount
Devin McCourty reminds everyone why ‘blueprint’ ensures no Vikings-like mutiny ever happens in New England 12.28.16 at 2:56 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Be assured of one thing Sunday, there will be no Vikings-esque mutiny of the game plan for attacking the Miami Dolphins and back-up quarterback Matt Moore.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer stunned everyone in his postgame press conference after the loss to the Packers in Green Bay last Saturday that his defensive backs – led by Terence Newman – went rogue in their defense of Jordy Nelson early in the game. (As it turned out, it wasn’t as big a deal as initially suspected).

Not that it was ever in doubt with the Patriots, Devin McCourty stressed Wednesday that the Patriots have no such issues with their game plan on a pair of wide receivers just as talented in Jarvis Landry and Devante Parker. If the Patriots can keep them in check Sunday, that will go a long way toward ensuring that Matt Moore and the Dolphins don’t derail New England’s hopes for a No. 1 seed for the second straight season.

“I think it’s huge. I just think as a football team there is no on and off switch,” McCourty said Wednesday. “You know, you can’t just decide when you want to play. I think from the outside in everyone talks about really how this week is not that important and how the playoffs are right there. I think for us none of that really matters. We’re going against a division team that knows us well, that has beaten us at home over the last three years. I think it’s important for us to just know our blueprint, know what we’ve done week-in and week-out and stay to that.

“I think it starts [Wednesday] with us in the meeting rooms learning, going out there and practicing well today, carrying that over into Thursday and then Friday and then that gives us the opportunity to go play well on Sunday. I think you don’t want to break that for anything. You want to just keep doing that and I think that gives you the mental toughness. That gives you the routine that you need. So many of us are built on routines and being able to do the same thing every day.

“Most of us, we know what Wednesday is like. If the game is on a different day then we turn Tuesday into Wednesday in our head and that’s how we go about it. I think that is very key for us if we want to go out there and play the type of football we want over the next two or three weeks and it starts with us going out there today, practicing well and playing well Sunday.”

McCourty said while the No. 1 seed is certainly significant, finishing the season strong and the right way is most important. Unlike last year, when the Patriots finished the regular season 2-4, the Patriots seem to be hitting their stride, riding a six-game winning streak. The Patriots are just a win from clinching their fourth 14-2 season and their fifth season with at least 14 wins.

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