McCourty has given up some plays in the last two games, which should be expected from a player who has drawn a heavy dose of Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson, who have become two of the premier wide receivers in the NFL.
In fact, forget the statistics for a minute. Most importantly, the Patriots have trusted McCourty to line up one on one with the opposition's best receiver. From there, New England has concentrated the bulk of its defensive effort against the offense's pace setters: Dolphins slot receiver Davone Bess and Chargers tight end Antonio Gates.
McCourty's teammates aren't even close to being concerned about his level of play because they know how much he has meant to their defense as a whole. Leave the individual evaluation to McCourty himself.
"I feel like there's times where I'm making pretty good plays, and then there's other times when I'm not," McCourty said after the Patriots' 35-21 victory against the Chargers. "I said earlier in the season one of my goals is to be a more consistent player as a corner, and it think I'm still working toward that right now, just trying to continue to make plays and be better out there on the field."
Why does he feel like he's struggling with consistency?
"I'm just getting better," McCourty said. "Right now, I think in my second year, it's a process. You don't just come in here, and go from just being a rookie, and going out and just being a consistent player. I'm working through it, and there are growing pains through it, so I'm just trying to work and get better for this team."
McCourty had an outstanding rookie season and was tremendous in training camp, which raised expectations for his sophomore campaign. He's gotten beat more than expected through the first two weeks, and he hasn't been spectacular in one-on-one coverage.
However, the underlying message should be the transition in defensive philosophy. The Patriots gave McCourty more help over the top last year, but they've let him do it on his own more frequently early in the 2011 season.
There might have been an urgency to place a "shutdown" tag on McCourty's shoulders, and he'll probably live up to that at some point. For now, he's learning how to take on more responsibility with residence on his own island.
"That's the job of a corner," McCourty said. "You're out there on guys. These last two weeks on top guys in this league, and I just feel like I've got to do a better job of going out there and being more competitive on a consistent basis, not just a couple plays."