FOXBORO, Mass. — The news that he was a second-team All-Pro came as a surprise to New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib.
“What?” Talib said when asked to comment about his selection. “Oh, did I?”
Talib then informed his fellow secondary mate, safety Devin McCourty, that he too made the All-Pro second team.
“Nah,” McCourty said in disbelief.
It was Talib’s first selection and McCourty’s second (the defensive captain was a second-team All-Pro at cornerback in 2010, his rookie season). McCourty was a snub for the Pro Bowl, making his selection to the more prestigious All-Pro team that much sweeter.
It’s a testament to how well the Patriots’ secondary as a whole has played that two All-Pros were culled from the unit. New England’s pass defense has made major strides over the past season, going from a bottom-of-the-barrel group to one of the top in the NFL when it’s completely healthy.
“When you got two guys — not the same position, but both in the secondary — that speaks volumes to the work you’re putting in as a group,” McCourty said. “Not just us two, but for us two to be named to that, it means our group has to be playing pretty well. Now it’s all about continuing and doing it during the postseason.”
Talib also was voted to the Pro Bowl. The star cornerback said he’ll save his celebrating for both until after the playoffs.
“It’s an honor, I guess,” Talib said. “I really didn’t even know about it. Just like that Pro Bowl, I’ll find a way to celebrate that after we finish our business.”
The Patriots rank ninth in passer rating against and fourth in completion percentage allowed. Talib has four interceptions on the season. McCourty has one.
Talib has allowed 29 receptions on 65 targets for 471 yards and two touchdowns on the season. McCourty has been targeted just 18 times this season. He has allowed nine catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
“It’s a great honor,” McCourty said. “Something you don’t think about when you’re playing, you just play. It’s definitely a cool honor. Don’t matter much right now. The focus is we’re set about going out there, winning the games we have left. You’d be crazy not to say it’s a great honor and something to be proud of.”
It’s especially impressive that McCourty made the All-Pro team in his first full season as a safety. He started playing the position at the end of the 2011 season. He then split his snaps between cornerback and safety in 2012 before taking over at free safety full time in 2013. McCourty played 15 games and drastically improved New England’s deep pass defense.
McCourty and Talib won’t be celebrating their selections for very long, though. They’ll spend their playoff bye this weekend watching the AFC wild-card games before diving into the tape after they find out who they’ll play next Saturday night in the divisional round.