Foxboro Mass --
Devin McCourty hears the criticism of a defense that has given up 71 points the last two weeks. McCourty jokes that the defense still wasn't good enough when the Pats won Super Bowls in 2014 and 2016. McCourty, who is now tied with Rob Gronkowski for the fifth longest tenured Patriots player and the defensive player that has been with the Pats the longest, understands that when a defense plays with Tom Brady it will always be second fiddle. McCourty, though, has shown his appreciation for playing in the NFL - once joking that he doesn't regret getting to play with Tom Brady.
McCourty also has struggled this year at times, but the emphasis for the defense is consistency. McCourty also does not want his defensive teammates taking Buffalo lightly despite their record and an offense that is probably the worst in the NFL (scored only three points last week against Indianapolis). McCourty knows that road games like Monday Night in Buffalo tests a team's mental toughness and focus.
"Yeah, I think for us, it brings us together. I think as a team, you go on the road like last week going to Chicago, this week going to Buffalo, of knowing we go out there and we get better as a team and we build character. You go out there and you get a big road win, you know that’s us. It’s all those guys in the locker room coming together, fighting adversity that usually happens at some point during the game on the road. I think it continues to help you become a better football team. It’s things we’ve been focusing on. I think we’ve got to continue to try to build to that," McCourty said.
McCourty knows the Pats will hardly have any supporters in Buffalo.
"It's one of those away games we we have no fans," Devin McCourty said. "The Buffalo fans will be there - they will be giving us the middle finger soon as we get in town. Within a couple miles they will be ready to go. We know they are going to come out and fight to give us a good game."
McCourty does not think the issue with the defense is talent, but rather consistency.
"I think just being more consistent. We talked about that as defense, just playing well at times then one mistake by one guy or a mistake by another guy and we give up a long drive for a touchdown or three points. And it might look like, “Dang, this defense is really playing well the last three or four drives. This is good.” And then it’s one bad drive and then another bad drive and then it’s, “OK, five good drives.” Just being able to play a consistent 60-minute game. I think it’s probably the focus for every team, but I think that’s really showed up for us when we’ve been really good at times and then really bad at times. It’s not going to be a perfect game but I think when it’s not going as good, it can’t be as bad as it’s been," McCourty said.
If Bills RB LeSean McCoy plays Monday Night - McCourty knows the Pats will have to tackle well.
"I’ve been trying to tackle the guy since like my sophomore year in college. I think one thing that always sticks out is you always talk about like ball security and the ball’s always flying around with him and I think people start to look at that and think like you’re going to strip the ball and see that and he’ll make you look silly. Very quick, tough to tackle in short space which is supposed to be easy. If you get a guy like that in a phone booth, he’ll still make you miss and we know that. He’ll run anywhere. The run could be designed to go outside to the left, he ends up all the way outside to the right. We talked about this week, it’s 11 guys. It’s not many times we’re going to tackle him one-on-one in open field. Like we’ve got to get as many guys as possible to the ball. It’s the same thing but different with [Chris] Ivory. Not as much trying to shake you, but he’s running violent. He’s trying to run through you. So the more guys we get to the ball on him too of trying to take him down with two and three guys instead of one-on-one with one guy, will help a lot in the run game," McCourty said.
McCourty practices against a great running back every day with James White.
"I think for us, James is like that guy that does no wrong. Like I always talk to Josh McDaniels about that and he always says that James is his guy because you tell him something one time, he does it. You tell him, “Don’t fumble the ball,” [and] he’s high and tight all the time," McCourty said.
"It’s when you watch him, you see. I don’t know all of their techniques or what they’re supposed to do but you know when you’re guarding him, he runs a route the same way and then another route looks like it so you’re assuming like, “Dang, James is probably running these routes exactly how they want.”
"And then it’s the same thing running the ball. I think just the consistency and being reliable. I think for us as a defense, we know when we go out there on Sunday, if James is in there on any capacity, any role, we have complete confidence even if we don’t know what that is just because of the type of worker he is and how consistent he is."
As for whether White can be a coach, McCourty showed his humorous side.
"Yeah, he’s just too quiet right now. We’ve got to get him to talk a little bit more. And he’s probably too nice – he’s got to be a little meaner. But knowledge he has," McCourty said.
McCourty does not have much time to watch the Red Sox. Unlike his fellow teammate Stephon Gilmore who has a good relationship with Jackie Bradley Jr. (per the great Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal), McCourty might be lonely because he does not have any friends on the Red Sox.
"No, I’m not a baseball player. I almost went to base-run in high school but hitting would have probably been a big struggle for me," McCourty said.
McCourty, 31, could in theory play center field - given that both safety and center field require ball hawking skills.
"Probably if I would have played but that’s one of those things where you say that and then you go out there and the ball’s going over your head, you’re misjudging it. So I’m going to stick to football," McCourty said.
Some day McCourty might be a good politician given his speaking ability, a leader of the NFL players association, a television analyst, or just a good dad teaching his children how to play center field.
McCourty might be be most proud of the latter. He knows that football is short-lived, family is forever.