FOXBORO, Mass. — Some leftover notes and nuggets from Thursday’s New England Patriots media availability at Gillette Stadium:
— Sunday’s win over the Houston Texans was Devin and Jason McCourty’s first regular-season game as teammates since their final year together at Rutgers in 2008.
The twin brothers both played on the Patriots’ kickoff unit and patrolled the defensive backfield together late in the game, as well, with Jason entering during the waning minutes of the fourth quarter and breaking up a pass on Houston’s final offensive play.
“Last week was fun just being out there talking throughout the game,” Devin McCourty said. “Obviously, being on kickoff together and even — obviously, he didn’t play a lot — but even just seeing him prepare once he got in the game and make a play toward the end to finish the game, it was a lot of fun. Obviously, I think everyone saw our mom on the sideline in pregame, so it was good for us.”
No one was happier to see the McCourty twins reunited than their mother, Phyllis Harrell.
“I think for her, it was something that she loved to see, just both of us together,” Devin McCourty said. “Obviously, she’s been that one person that’s watched us our whole life, and she knows how much we like being around each other, even though we not might admit it all the time. And seeing us be able to play on the same football team, she’s just excited.
“She loves every minute of it, wants to go to away games. Obviously, she’ll be at every home game. It’s kind of a unique opportunity that we know we probably only get limited time with, and we’re trying to enjoy every step.”
Mama McCourty watched pregame warmups from the sideline, sporting a custom Devin/Jason Patriots jersey.
“I don’t even know if you could put it into words,” she told Angelique Fiske of Patriots.com. “I didn’t think I would feel nervous, but I feel nervous. Maybe because it’s the beginning of the season and I want them both to do well. I don’t know but I do. I got up this morning, and I’m going about getting myself ready, and all of a sudden, I was like, ‘Oh, I feel a little nervous.’ ”
The McCourtys became the first twins to play together on the same team in a regular-season NFL game since Gene and Tom Golsen did so for the Louisville Colonels in 1926.
— Devin McCourty and fellow safety Patrick Chung both were complimentary of Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, who has been the target of much ridicule throughout his four-year NFL career.
“He’s a good player,” Chung said. “He makes the right decisions, he has a good arm, he can run, he can extend plays. He’s a good player, man. I don’t know what people are saying about him, but to us, he’s a legit quarterback.”
The Bortles hate, which reached an all-time high last summer, died down a bit after the 26-year-old played well enough in 2017 for the Jaguars to reach the AFC Championship Game. The Jags’ elite defense took care of most of the heavy lifting, but Bortles did his part by posting career bests in completion percentage and interceptions. Basically, he didn’t screw things up, allowing the team to rely on its suffocating D and potent running game.
Rather than looking to sign a QB in free agency or use a high draft pick on one this spring, the Jaguars placed their faith in Bortles by signing him to a three-year, $54 million contract extension.
Bortles completed 23 of 39 passes for 293 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions against the Patriots in last year’s AFC Championship Game.
“I think very poised throughout the game,” McCourty said. “He put the ball a couple of times in third down, taking a few shots, like one down the sideline where he kind of put the ball where only the receiver could catch it. So I think we’ve just got to be prepared, obviously, for the game-plan stuff that they know that we do defensively that we might not have seen from them on a weekly basis.
“I think he’s smart enough and a good enough quarterback that he can see something that we’re doing and audible or get them a different call that they probably game-planned throughout the week.”
McCourty also noted Bortles’ underrated rushing ability, which Patriots coach Bill Belichick also praised earlier in the week.
“If we open up a gap up front,” McCourty said, “he’ll take off and run and hurt us in that way, too.”
— McCourty knows the pain of losing in the AFC title game. The Patriots have done so three times since drafting him in 2010. He knows the Jaguars will be uber-motivated entering Sunday’s rematch.
“I think you taste it, and you kind of know what it takes to get there,” McCourty said. “I know for us, you always knew how hard it was when you got there, and I think that was the worst feeling — that letdown. And as you come back that next season, you kind of know, ‘We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.’ I think we’ve always had it pretty good because Bill always comes in there and says, ‘Don’t think because we got there last year that we’re going to get right back to that opportunity, and then we can play and see if we win.’ …
“I’m sure (the Jaguars) will have a similar attitude of just trying to win and destroy everyone in their way. I think we’ve got to understand that’s the mentality we have to have going in there Sunday — that it’s going to be a high-level, playoff type of game.”
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images