The New England Patriots will be starting their postseason on Saturday against the Houston Texans. Who is their defensive X-Factor?
For the second half of the season, the defensive unit of the New England Patriots have been on an upwards trend. Since their game against Seattle, they have begun to tighten up and one of the big reasons is the improved play of safety Devin McCourty.
In the last two months, he has stepped up and helped force critical turnovers through smart play and brute force. As the last line of defense it will be imperative that he continues his good form for the next three games.
Often deployed as the safety net on the back end of the defense, McCourty has stepped up as a playmaker in the last few weeks, helping force key turnovers and being in the right place at the right time.
Against Baltimore he had an interception that helped change field position and a week later there was a big hit on fourth down to help end Denver’s final possession. In the season finale against Miami there was another momentum changing forced fumble which was picked up by Shea McClellin.
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This week, they face a Texans side capable of getting the ball downfield and McCourty will be tasked with making sure they do not give up any big plays. Last year with the Broncos, Brock Osweiler had his success throwing the ball long to his big targets. With DeAndre Hopkins looming as the Texans best receiving threat, expect McCourty to help shadow him and help provide deep cover.
One of the headiest players on the team, Devin McCourty is the key to the defensive performance for the Patriots in the playoffs. With his range and increased playmaking skills, it is imperative for him to be on his game when they take the field in the one, two or three games left this season.
The first task comes Saturday night where they will be hoping to post a second straight shutout of Houston.