Blocked field goal touchdowns aren’t exactly commonplace in the NFL. The one the New England Patriots pulled off Sunday night was their first since 2014.
But when Devin McCourty scooped up the bouncing ball after teammate Cody Davis blocked Michael Badgley’s 58-yard field-goal try, he wasn’t surprised.
McCourty knew he’d score a touchdown Sunday.
Why? Because of what he was wearing on his feet.
This is My Cause, My Cleats week in the NFL, during which players are allowed to decorate their footwear with personalized messages. McCourty and his wife Michelle, lost a child this past summer when their daughter, Mia, was delivered stillborn. The veteran safety chose to honor her Sunday, using his cleats to promote The TEARS Foundation’s Center for Child Loss.
?It was crazy. I knew today I was going to score,” McCourty said in a video conference after the Patriots hammered the Los Angeles Chargers 45-0 at SoFi Stadium. “My Cause, My Cleats, I felt just special today. Representing the TEARS organization for child loss and just knowing my wife would be back home watching. The cleats had rainbows on them and ‘hope’ and ‘love,’ and I felt like that today.
“So I knew I would find a way to get in the end zone so she?ll be able to see it and the rest of my kids will see that. It was cool.”
The touchdown was a key play in New England’s most lopsided win of the season, putting the Patriots ahead 28-0 on the final snap of the first half.
Davis and Justin Bethel breezed past former Patriots tight end Stephen Anderson with an overloaded rush off the defensive right side, and McCourty was there to capitalize.
“As soon as I scooped it and scored, all I could think about was Cody really did the hard work, and he probably was about to pick it up, and I ran in there and got it in front of him,” McCourty said. “He really made it happen, and I was just lucky enough once I got it to get in the end zone.?
And he got in the end zone quickly. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, McCourty hit 21.11 mph on his return, the second-fastest any Patriots ball-carrier has been clocked at this season.
McCourty also occupies the top spot on that list, reaching 21.33 mph on his Week 2 pick-six against the Seattle Seahawks.
The Patriots’ dominance on special teams — coupled with the Chargers’ ineptitude in the same areas — fueled Sunday’s rout.
In addition to McCourty’s score, Gunner Olszewski returned one punt 70 yards for a touchdown and another 61 yards, and Jake Bailey pinned L.A. inside its own 10-yard line on three of his four punts, with star gunner Justin Bethel making a highlight-reel play to down one.
The Patriots also had 50-plus-yard punt and kickoff returns in last week’s win over the Arizona Cardinals.
?It?s huge,? McCourty said. ?I think especially for us, because we know how much time we spend on special teams, how many guys like (Matthew) Slater, Bethel, Gunner take pride in their role. They lead our special teams unit, and I think it was huge.
“We?ve been talking about having big returns, making big plays, and I would give a lot of credit to (special teams coordinator) Cam Achord. He?s been working his butt off this year to get us going, and guys stepped up. … That changes the game.”