Surely, he had some help along the way during the Pats' 45-24 victory against the Lions, but McCourty's third-quarter interception completely changed the flow and allowed the Patriots to settle in and take control.
With the Patriots trailing 17-10 and looking flatter than a saucer of canned cranberry sauce, McCourty climbed the ladder on a downfield throw to enormous Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson and intercepted the ball at the highest point of his leap. To put that in perspective, earlier this week, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick mentioned the danger of trying to defend jump balls thrown to Johnson, and he compared the Detroit wideout to Shaquille O'Neal going for a rebound against two point guards.
Days later, that point makes McCourty's midair snare that much more impressive.
"Devin's interception was a huge play in the game," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said at his postgame news conference.
Belichick added, "That was a big play by Devin there that kind of really swung the game, I think, a little bit, with giving us the field position, putting us back to where we could be on an even par with Detroit instead of chasing them all the time like we were in the first half."
That’s for sure. Brady led the offense down the field for the tying touchdown early in the third quarter, and it sprung a 35-7 run for the Patriots to close out the game. Naturally, McCourty didn’t do it alone, as Brady had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 to go along with 341 yards and four touchdowns. All the while, wide receivers Deion Branch and Wes Welker and running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis each found the end zone twice.
It was McCourty, though, who stole the show and might have earned some votes for Defensive Rookie of the Year, as well. While Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is having an otherworldly season, McCourty might actually be more valuable to his team because he's an integral piece on a playoff-bound club.
McCourty, who also picked off a pass in the fourth quarter, became the first Patriots rookie to intercept two passes in a game since Mike Haynes in 1976, and McCourty's five interceptions are second to Haynes' franchise rookie record (eight).
Belichick has dropped tons of praise on McCourty throughout the season, which is nothing to scoff at. He compared McCourty's film study to the likes of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who some contend is the greatest player in NFL history, and Belichick said earlier this week that McCourty looks like a guy who has been playing in the league for five or six years.
That’s hardly the case. Thursday was the 11th game of McCourty's career, and he put the Patriots on his back.