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Devin McCourty: The 104-yard TD return ‘what a special teams coach would love to see’ 10.22.12 at 2:01 am ET
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Devin McCourty on his way to a 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first half Sunday. (AP)

FOXBORO — It was the best of times and the worst of times for Devin McCourty and Scott O’Brien on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

In the first quarter of New England’s 29-26 overtime win against the Jets, McCourty took a kickoff four yards deep in the end zone and returned it 104 yards for a touchdown that tied the game, 7-7, and gave the Patriots new energy.

“It was a kind of what a special teams coach would love to see, ran the ball, made one cut and everyone else got blocked except the kicker,” said McCourty, who deked Jets kicker Nick Folk on his way to paydirt. “When your kickoff return team does that, block everyone except for one guy, as a returner, you’ve got to score right there.”

Then came the nightmare for McCourty and special teams coach O’Brien.

McCourty took a hit from Lex Hilliard at the Patriots 15 and fumbled, with Hillard recovering at the Patriots 18 after the Jets had tied the game, 23-23. The Jets did not take full advantage and converted only a field goal with 1:37 left to take a 26-23 lead.

“My teammates saved my life today,” McCourty said. “A bad mistake in the fourth quarter that I just have to do a better job of holding the ball. This was just a total team win. We just kept fighting. Things didn’t go our way the whole game today. We made enough plays when we needed to for the win.”

McCourty was rescued when Stephen Gostkowski hit a game-tying 43-yard field goal at the end of regulation to force overtime and a 48-yarder in overtime to provide the margin of victory.

“That’s not something that I think I should do and plan on doing so just paying more attention and securing the ball better. I can’t let those other 10 guys down that are working hard to make some tough blocks out there. Whether it’s a score or not, I just can’t let the ball go.”

Read More: Devin McCourty, lex hilliard, New England Patriots, New York Jets
Friday free-for-all: Captain Devin McCourty and Nate Solder is confident 09.07.12 at 11:31 pm ET
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Devin McCourty enters his third NFL season on Sunday, his first as Patriots captain. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Leadership is something that’s not taken for granted with the Patriots, nor is it bestowed lightly.

So when Devin McCourty was honored on Thursday as one of six team captains, he was humbled that his teammates felt he had what it takes in his third NFL season to lead the Patriots defense on the field.

“It’s an honor,” McCourty said Friday. “Whenever you can get voted by a bunch of your peers and your teammates as someone they feel is a leader. I think it’s an honor and I’m just going to try and do my duties and be a leader for these guys.”

McCourty joins Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo as captains on defense while Tom Brady and Logan Mankins are offensive captains and Matthew Slater rounds out the captains for the 2012 Patriots on special teams.

“Just trying to do whatever I think the team needs,” McCourty said. “I think we have some great leaders on this team so I think we’re just trying to feed off each other.”

McCourty has advice for the younger players, including the rookies, who will be making their NFL debut this Sunday.

“When you get out there on the field, the speed picks up a little more,” McCourty said. “I think the rookies will see it’s not as friendly. In the preseason, a lot of times you’re going against a lot of guys you went to school with, guys that are free agents get on teams. Once you start talking about each game matters, you get in the regular season and guys are really focused on just trying to win. I think the pace and the attitude changes a little bit.

“I’ve just been telling the guys to just remember that at the end of the day, it’s football. You’ve been playing football your whole life. It’s a bigger stage but it’s the next stage for you. Just be prepared and try to stay settled.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: lex hilliard, Nate Solder, New England Patriots, nfl
Lex Hilliard latest to audition for the role of fullback in Foxboro 09.05.12 at 1:11 pm ET
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Lex Hilliard

FOXBORO — Lex Hilliard is built like a fullback, and while he has some positional versatility, he’s anticipating working as a fullback with the Patriots.

Hilliard, a 5-foot-11, 240-pounder, was signed to the active roster earlier this week by New England, as the Patriots continue to cycle their way through fullbacks. Spencer Larsen, Tony Fiammetta, Eric Kettani and Kareem Huggins have all come and gone over the course of the summer. The latest to land in Foxboro is Hilliard, who has spent three seasons in the league, all of them with the Dolphins. (He was picked up and cut this summer by the Vikings.)

A sixth-round pick of Miami in 2008, he’s had 39 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns in three years. He’s played both fullback and running back over the course of his career — and his body type definitely suggests fullback — but is ready to take on the fullback job if that’s what it takes for him to stick with the Patriots.

“I came in in Miami — I played a little [fullback] there,” he said. “I did a little bit in Minnesota. I could be playing it again.”

One thing Hilliard has in his favor is a real working knowledge of the AFC East. He’s already been leaning on former Miami teammates Donald Thomas and Rob Ninkovich to help with the overall acclimation process.

“It’s pretty fun, hitting the ground running like this,” he said. “I played in Miami, and we were in the same division so we played the Patriots twice a year. It was good to be around an organization I already have a familiarity with. Donald Thomas was with me down in Miami. Rob Ninkovich was down there with me. A couple of faces that seem familiar.”

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What we learned about the Patriots on Tuesday: Bill Belichick’s fullback fixation 09.04.12 at 11:31 pm ET
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Lex Hilliard

Six Patriots-related thoughts at the end of a surprisingly busy Tuesday:

1. We’ve seen Patriots players come and go pretty quickly — last month, it took fullback Kareem Huggins less than a day to go from signed to released — and so the 72 hours Matt Tennant spent as a member of the Patriots wasn’t all that unusual, especially as New England continues roster tweaks between now and the opener. Tennant, who was claimed off waivers, was cleared to make room for Lex Hilliard. Hilliard, a 5-foot-11, 240-pounder, has played both fullback and running back over the course of his career, and could be the latest in a long line of those who have auditioned for the role of fullback in the New England offense this season. (Hilliard has lined up at fullback in the past.) In that same vein, fullback Eric Kettani was released from the practice squad on Tuesday.

2. Since the start of the offseason, the Patriots have cycled through fullbacks at a furious rate: New England has released Lousaka Polite, and while Spencer Larsen and Tony Fiammetta were signed, both were left on the side of the road before the end of the summer. (Fiammetta was placed on exempt/left squad, while Larsen went on injured reserve.) Huggins was in Foxboro for one day before being released, while Kettani went from surviving the first round of cuts to being released to landing on the practice squad, only to be cut again on Tuesday. The latest possibilities are James Develin, who was added to the practice squad on Sept. 2, and Hilliard, who was added to the 53-man roster on Tuesday. Neither one is a traditional fullback, but both likely will be pressed into service as members of the Patriots as Bill Belichick continues his fullback fixation. Read the rest of this entry »

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