Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 10/30/13
New-england-patriots-san
FOXBORO, Mass. — When Devin McCourty moved from cornerback to safety last season, a change occurred: The Patriots stopped allowing so many big plays. Opposing teams are still willing to challenge New England on plays thrown over 20 yards, they’re just not hitting nearly as many of those bombs down the field. Over the last three years, opposing teams have completed just 35.2 percent of passes over 20 yards with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions in games when McCourty plays safety. When McCourty’s at cornerback or out of the game, opposing teams complete 43.4 percent of passes with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Patriots are allowing 58.4 yards per game on big plays when McCourty’s at safety and 70.4 yards per game without McCourty patrolling the back end of the field. This season, the Patriots have allowed 16 completions on 50 throws of over 20 yards for 457 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. Patriots defense vs. throws over 20 yards (stats culled from Pro Football Focus): 2013: 8 games, 16-50, 32%, 457 yards, 3 TDs, 4 INTs 2012: 18 games, 40-102, 39.2%, 1,186 yards, 13 TDs, 9 INTs 2011: 19 games, 41-87, 47.1%, 1,306 yards, 6 TDs, 3 INTs McCourty at safety: 18 games, 38-108, 35.2%, 1,051 yards, 10 TDs, 9 INTs McCourty not at safety: 27 games, 63-145, 43.4%, 1,900 yards, 13 TDs, 8 INTs Losses: 10 games, 23-62, 37.1%, 730 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT Wins: 35 games, 74-177, 41.8%, 2,219 yards, 16 TDs, 15 INTs McCourty started out the year as a dependable presence at free safety, though he wasn’t making many flashy plays. Over the last few weeks, Brady has shined more and more. He had a huge pass deflection in the end zone against the Jets and his tip to Marquice Cole in the fourth quarter against the Dolphins was a thing of beauty. It was a game-changing play that only a player of McCourty’s caliber would have had the awareness and ability to make. With Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu getting older, McCourty may have emerged as the league’s premier safety, as crazy as that sounds. Earl Thomas is up there, Eric Berry and Jairus Byrd are up there, but McCourty has been as good as anyone this season and he’s only gotten better since making the switch last season. McCourty’s not the traditional big-hitting safety over the middle of the field, but his instincts, speed and awareness are all elite. He’s a great run-stopper and he’s even been asked to come down and play a little cornerback, nickel back and dime back this season. McCourty’s experience at cornerback is huge and it shows with his ball skills. The Patriots’ pass defense has made a huge jump over the last two years. Gone are the days when teams could pass on New England all day. McCourty being a dependable presence at safety may be the biggest reason for the change. Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard‘s impressive play has certainly helped, as has Kyle Arrington‘s slot play and Logan Ryan‘s emergence. But McCourty is helping keep opposing teams completing just two throws over 20 yards per game this season. And over the last four games, the defense has allowed just five throws over 20 yards. Out of anyone on defense right now, McCourty may be the most irreplaceable. And that includes players like Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo that are already lost for the season. Have a question for Doug Kyed? Send it to him via Twitter at @DougKyedNESN or send it here.Filed under: Doug Kyed, New England Patriots, Top Stories
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Examining Bo Ryan's legacy at Wisconsin

World Cup semifinals preview: US-Japan, Germany-England

Tim Duncan to help Spurs pitch LaMarcus Aldridge

Report: Knicks gave up on signing Marc Gasol 'long ago'

Kings terminate Mike Richards' contract due to 'breach'

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Nets believe they can trade Deron Williams

Mickelson likely committed no crime even if he gambled

Report: Dwyane Wade to decline option, become a free agent

Darren McFadden: I feel like a rookie again

Report: Mavericks a favorite to land DeAndre Jordan

Report: Kevin Love likely to re-sign with Cavaliers

Top seven storylines entering free agency around the NBA

Former FSU mascot killed in argument over gumbo recipe

Royals slipping in ASG voting, lose two more starters

Fred Smoot: I played with gay players, 'everyone knew'

Bobby Portis brings donuts for media at press conference

John Calipari shares his thoughts on Confederate flag

Steve Weatherford, Jason Kelce get into Twitter beef

Larry Nance Jr. apologized to 'Mr. Bryant' for rapist tweet

J.J. Watt 'tackles' stage crasher at Zac Brown Band show

Jimmy Butler reportedly wants to leave Bulls, sign with Lakers

Selecting the 2015 National League All-Stars

Taking a look at the Philadelphia Sixers' latest horde

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Mickelson linked to money laundering?

Reminiscing on 'Love & Basketball' 15 years later

Selecting the 2015 NL All-Stars

The Sixers' latest horde

Projected landing spots for NBA's top free agents

MLB changes format for Home Run Derby

Revis to work out with Patriots DBs

Peterson: I'm still NFL's best RB

Kobe gives great quote on friendship

Winners, losers and steals of the NHL Draft

Carmelo calls Porzingis a 'steal'

WATCH: J.J. Watt scores hockey goal

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.