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

Utah beats Michigan 24-17, ruins Jim Harbaugh’s debut

Patriots keep Tom Brady excitement close to vest

Wayne happy about Brady verdict: 'That's my quarterback'

Markieff Morris on Twitter: ‘My future will not be in Phoenix’

Jonathan Kraft on asking for draft picks: 'Never say never'

Redskins charge non-season ticket holders $50 to use will call

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Arthur Blank on Roger Goodell: ‘Change may be appropriate’

Belichick gives typical reply to question about Brady's freedom

Goodell not attending season opener at Gillette Stadium

Jakub Voracek will donate $1,000 for every point he scores

Dwayne Bowe reportedly in danger of being cut by Browns

Slava Voynov taken into custody by U.S Immigration

Trevone Boykin’s Heisman bid off to rocky start against Minnesota

Michigan lost their opener, but showed signs of improvement

Aaron Rodgers on Brady ruling: ‘It’s a good day for the players’

Jim Harbaugh uses Seahawks play card and Seattle loves it

First drive of Jim Harbaugh Era in Michigan ends in interception

Redskins fan who named son after RG3: ‘I don’t regret it at all’

Freshmen to watch in Week 1 of college football

Early returns on Manny Machado, MLB shortstop

Judge Berman offered free coffee for life

Conor McGregor insults Jose Aldo, plans move to lightweight

Angry Indy columnist: Don't fall for 'Deflategate magic trick'

Staubach calls Romo 'one of the best quarterbacks in the league'

Utah forbade Harbaugh-themed bus from campus

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

The Gospel Of Harbaugh prepares for its ultimate test of faith

Meet the Utah Utes, the pluckiest program in college football

Iman Shumpert will name daughter Iman Shumpert Jr.

Dallas company celebrates Romo with DirecTV 'crownies'

Top 10 storylines for Week 4 of the NFL preseason

Matt Williams is still hopelessly married to the idea of the closer’s role

Five unique CFB games to watch this weekend

Be careful what you wish for, Jay Gruden

Ryan taking leap of faith with Bills

Top 10 storylines for Week 1 of college football season

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker