For all the talk this year about Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan in the Patriots secondary, Monday night showed that good pass coverage isn’t limited to corners.
As a matter of fact, if it weren’t for Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, the outcome of the game against the Bills could’ve been vastly different.
Chung and McCourty each made plays in the second quarter that kept the Bills out of the end zone. On Buffalo’s first drive of the second quarter, Chris Hogan got behind Patrick Chung and appeared ready to haul in a touchdown from Tyrod Taylor. But Chung didn’t give up on the play and when Taylor underthrew Hogan, Chung, with his back to the ball, got his hands up without committing pass interference to break up the play at the Patriots 5.
The ball was nearly picked off by Duron Harmon who was coming over from the middle of the field. The Bills had to settle for a field goal.
While Chung’s breakup saved four points, a play just before halftime saved even more and turned the tide of the game. With the Bills marching for a touchdown, Taylor spotted a wide open LeSean McCoy sprinting toward the end zone. As the ball was settling in McCoy’s hands, McCourty came over and got a hand in and pushed the ball out for an incompletion. When Dan Carpenter’s 48-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright and clanged away, the Patriots had the ball at their 38. They marched down the field for a go-ahead touchdown that put the Patriots up, 10-3, at the half.
Not only did the two plays save 11 points on the scoreboard, the McCourty play was a 14-point swing in a game that featured precious little offense.
“I thought that Chung made a good play on the ball there when he kind of saw the receiver’s hands go up ‘ Hogan’s hands go up, came up with his arm and got the ball and the hand and all that,” Bill Belichick said in a conference call Tuesday. “It was kind of a bang-bang play, which is what you can do in that situation. You can’t obviously grab the guy early, but I thought he played pretty good technique on that showed patience and just raised the receiver’s hands when he went up for the ball.
“Devin showed good awareness of kind of the matchup there with McCoy on the linebacker, and he got a good jump on the ball as he usually does, saw the matchup and was able to get over the top on that. So, those were two good plays by those guys and they obviously saved us a lot of points.”
Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia was next to Belichick on the sidelines watching his secondary save the back end of the defense, and the game in the process.
“Obviously the red-area is a huge point of emphasis for us,” added Patricia. “When the ball gets down there we’ve got to do our best ability to keep them out of the end zone. Those are what we call “four-point plays” or in some cases could be a seven-point play if we can get it turned the other way. It’s a critical part of the field. We really try and make sure that the point of emphasis is on all the fundamentals and the game plan calls and the communication. That’s really the biggest thing for our safeties as group is to understand the communication down there and make sure that we’re on the same page and that the coverage is handled from that standpoint.
“I think those guys are doing a great job of trying to get better and the red-area is something we really try and put a big point of emphasis on and it’s a critical part of the field and each play is worth points. I think those guys, all of the safeties, and all of the defensive backs and linebackers, are guys that are in coverage down in the red area and understand how critical that is and really have to do a great job of being fundamentally sound with their technique and understand where they are on the field.”
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