Devin McCourty, who has endured his share of criticism and praise as he’s learned the ways of a Bill Belichick-coached secondary, had high praise for his coach Sunday night. The Patriots steamrolled the Dolphins, 28-0, setting up a first-round bye in which the team will rest up and look to continue the development that Belichick and his coaches have been working on all season.
When McCourty was asked what was next for the Patriots, the defensive back sounded as though he had no worries that the Patriots would be prepared.
“We’ll see,” he said. “Coach [Belichick] will come in here tomorrow, and he never falls short of having a bunch of things that we need to fix. He’ll go over the film.
“I think since I’ve been here, there’s no coach that gets you better prepared to go into the playoffs.
“So I think us as a team, we just need to be ready to come in here tomorrow and focus on whatever coach Belichick has for us and get those things done, because if we get them done, we’ll be in good shape.”
McCourty and his unit, the secondary, get to see perhaps more than any part of the team how players are shepherded into distinct roles. Without tons of raw talent at safety and cornerback, Belichick uses specific schemes and techniques to make the most of his players’ abilities.
The continued focus on each player fulfilling his role, and the unit getting the most out of itself, has turned around the Patriots’ defensive efforts this year. Whereas the Patriots’ defense allowed oodles of points and long pass plays earlier this season, the defense has evolved to the point where it can consistently make stops, force turnovers and limit point totals.
McCourty said that improvement will have to continue in the playoffs.
“Going into the playoffs, we won’t be the only team going to the next level,” he said. “I think everyone knows once you go into the playoffs, teams step it up a notch, so we’re going to have to do our part and try to step it up and match teams going into the playoffs. If we keep improving and getting better, we’ll be able to get there.”
It’s not a new tactic for the Patriots, who always aim to peak around the time of the playoffs, no matter what happens earlier in the season. Belichick has built his success on getting his team clicking at the right time.
It sounds like McCourty is buying in, and that’s not a bad sign this time of year.