FOXBORO, Mass. — Safety Devin McCourty and his fellow New England Patriots defenders were left shaking their heads Thursday after failing to score on two snaps from inside the 10-yard line.
If that sentence doesn’t make total sense, don’t worry. It was strange to watch, too.
On Day 7 of training camp — the most physical day yet and one of the hottest — Patriots coach Bill Belichick decided to close out practice with a bit of role reversal. After wrapping up the final round of 11-on-11 drills, New England’s starting defense switched to offense, and the first-team O — including quarterback Tom Brady — fanned out into a defensive formation near the goal line.
With safeties Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung sharing passing duties and Brady, who will turn 41 on Friday, playing middle linebacker, the offense prevailed on both reps. Wide receiver Chris Hogan broke up a Harmon pass on the first, and Chung failed to connect with cornerback Eric Rowe on the second.
“We need a lot of practice,” McCourty lamented afterward. “We need a little bit more rules. There was no running game. (The offense) dropped like nine into coverage and rushed two. They had a little bit of an advantage because they rushed (380-pound offensive tackle Trent Brown), so that’s like rushing three. It’s tough for us on offense, but hopefully we do it again and we get another shot at those guys.”
It was the second time in four days the Patriots finished practice on a lighter note. Rookie offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn capped Monday’s session inside Gillette Stadium by successfully catching a punt from Ryan Allen, much to the delight of his teammates.
“We just wanted to come out and just have fun,” rookie cornerback Duke Dawson said of Thursday’s switcheroo. “Throughout a tough, hard camp, that’s stuff that we all like looking forward to.”
Given the publicity the Patriots’ alleged lack of “fun” received during the offseason, it’s been interesting to see the team take these respites from the grind of training camp. The final week of organized team activities this spring also featured some diversions from the typical New England routine, like a team trip to Fenway Park and a throwback practice in leather helmets.
“(Belichick) has always had a good gauge on the team — where we’re at, what we need, when we need it, when to push, when to draw back,” said special teams captain Matthew Slater, who has been with the Patriots since 2008. “He’s got a unique feel for that kind of stuff. And to the outside world or someone who’s not in there with him every day, it may seem like he’s way out of touch, but that’s not the case.
“I think that he’s shown that to me. He’s proved that to me year-in and year-out that he’s always going to try to do what’s best for the team so that ultimately we can be successful.”
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images