EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 17, 2012

Denial about McCourty must end

On Pro Football Hector Longo
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — FOXBORO – How damaged or even fragile has Devin McCourty grown?

I mean, he’s forcing Bill Belichick way out of the box lately, with the coach massaging McCourty’s ego both publicly and privately.

The coach has to be considered desperate. And why wouldn’t he be if McCourty is the one guy he thinks can be saved.

In his weekly “must-hear” radio stint with WEEI’s Big Show this week, Belichick caused a slew of rush-hour conflagrations when he busted out with this:

“Devin I think has really overall had a good year and has improved in a lot of areas … He’s done a really good job of the things we’ve asked him to do. We’ve asked him to change some things and do some things differently and he’s done a good job of that. I think he’s coming along at corner, and that’s where he’s been. I thought he did a real good job for us in all areas (Sunday). I thought he was on the receivers well. Covered well, jammed them. I thought he did a real good job.”

Obviously, the Pats videographer was out grabbing a late-game hot dog on the game-winning play in which McCourty simply allowed Sidney Rice a free release than run away to cover nobody – unleashing a free-running Rice on a literally defenseless Tavon Wilson.

But Belichick’s “be nice to Devin” plea fits the M.O. recently.

The kid, who supposedly worked so hard in the offseason and gained such respect with his teammates that the boss named him a defensive captain, retreated to 2011 form this season, almost from the opening snap.

In six games, he’s been toasted for six 20-plus yard gains, and that doesn’t include a pair of long pass interference flags earned. You might remember that tiny little 28-yarder in Baltimore that set up the Ravens’ game-winning field goal? (Again, the videographer had to have been hitting the crab cakes late game on that one).

McCourty must be shattered. There is no other explanation.

We all remember his seasonal high point today, a pair of picks on awfully thrown balls by Ryan Fitzpatrick in the beating of the Bills.

Belichick walked into his postgame locker-room, told the team he was proud and then singled out McCourty.

Basically, via Patriots All-Access, we saw the coach tell McCourty that outside the locker-room the world may be against him, but the guys inside were on his side.

He told him he’d take McCourty “any day.”

Of course, “any day” doesn’t include December, January and February of 2011 when the coach demoted his 2010 Pro-Bowler to part-time safety because he couldn’t cover anyone.

McCourty spent the entire playoff in denial.

When asked of the “demotion” on Super Bowl week, he told me at least 4-5 times, it wasn’t a “demotion” and he was just doing his part for the team.

Do you think Ty Law would have responded the same way?

Relying on McCourty might ultimately be this defense’s downfall. There’s simply too much denial being fostered here, both by player and coach. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.

Devin McCourty isn’t the worst defensive back on this football team. In fact, he’s probably the best.

That should petrify every New England Patriot fan on the planet.

If he’s your best, then you understand why when it comes to stopping the pass that this defense is the worst.

Follow Eagle-Tribune Sports Reporter Hector Longo on Twitter under the screen name @MVcreature.