Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 10/22/12
First quarter: Devin McCourty returns a kick, slips past the coverage and hoofs it 104 yards to put the Patriots on the board and tie the Jets, 7-7. Fourth quarter: McCourty fumbles a kick, loses the ball deep in New England territory and sets the Patriots up for a late loss. After games: Coach Bill Belichick praises McCourty and tells him he's a solid part of the defense, no matter what the critics say (a rare move for Belichick). During games: Patriots fans unleash the vitriol on McCourty, who they know so well not only because of his mishaps and flag-drawing on defense, but also because it's his name and number filling the screen as he tries to defend the ball by never looking at it. It's a tired story, seven games into this season, that the Patriots' defense can't defend, that the offense lets games get away late and that this group has to do much better if it thinks it's better than what should have been an easy AFC East title and then some. But the heavy criticism will always be about the New England secondary. It stunk last season, and it stinks this year. It gives up oodles of yardage, collects buckets of penalty flags and not only can't play well but also looks positively jayvee doing it. Say what you will about the timely turnovers and keeping points off the board, but this group is bad -- and it's led by McCourty. Sure, McCourty was a champ on Sunday, playing in a different position as the already-subpar group had to make up for not having its usual players in the right spots. But McCourty consistently fails to live up to expectations and potential, and the serviceable effort he puts out each week is not enough to make his spot on the team -- or the fellow players he leads -- respectable. McCourty can intercept. McCourty can run the length of the field with good wide receivers. McCourty can break up passes. McCourty looked just great at safety for much of Sunday's game. But McCourty cannot do all of this at once. Much like his performance Sunday, where he saved the team with his kick-return touchdown only to just about spoil the entire afternoon's effort with a horrific fumble, McCourty is either all there or not there at all. And it's the scourge of this all-or-nothing approach -- which infects not only McCourty but also the entire New England secondary and sometimes the Patriots as a whole -- that is what has made the Patriots so frustrating to follow or figure out this year. Praise Tom Brady for being a great quarterback, but understand that for every surgical, minute-and-a-half drive to save the game like he did on Sunday, he's put together a three-and-out in the fourth quarter. Praise the defense for timely interceptions and forced fumbles, but know that every Rob Ninkovich crush has an equal huge-yard pass interference call as its counterpart. Praise the balanced offense, running game and ability to steamroll opponents, but realize that in close games -- especially in the second half -- the Patriots can't score at the same clip. McCourty should not be exorcised for the faults of his whole team, or even the entire secondary. But as Patriots fans tuck in their chip bowls for another season of watching McCourty's back flash in their face as a long-ball completion goes over his head, he's an easy scapegoat. He is what the Patriots have become, leaving behind years of disciplined execution. As beautiful as the big moments are, it's consistency and methodical production that ensure success, and that New England needs badly. The all is great. The nothing cuts deep. Somewhere in the middle lie the wins.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Adrian Beltre completes cycle, gets mad when assaulted

Gruden had to convince Dan Snyder to bench RG3

Jim Mora turns P. Diddy fight into recruiting pitch for UCLA

Illinois releases results of women's basketball probe

Richie Incognito named starter by Rex Ryan


DeMarco Murray isn't thrilled Eagles limited reps in practice

Brandon Weeden: 'God forbid I am forced to play' for Dallas

Ben Roethlisberger: Markus Wheaton is ready to break out

Hernandez tipster allegedly had sexual relationship with him

Rookie WR Tyler Lockett has Pete Carroll, Seahawks gushing

Packers TE returns to practice in wake of family tragedy

WATCH: Giants players fight during training camp

Lindsey Vonn shows support for Tiger Woods on Twitter

Report: Rousey to star in film based on her autobiography

Porn star offers to cook meal for any sports champion

Why everyone is wrong about Cowboys Tony Romo, Part 1

Oregon was only team drug tested during CFB Playoff?

Five 2nd year NBA players ready to take the next step

John Daly wants to be US Ryder Cup captain

Rodgers appears in another Olivia Munn workout video

Matt Hasselbeck is still getting random drug tests

Five teams that won at the MLB trade deadline

What should be expected from Aaron Rodgers in 2015?

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.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Adrian Beltre gets mad when assaulted after HR

Lindsey Vonn shows support for Tiger

Notre Dame doesn't need a conference

Rex takes jabs at Jets' management

Sanchez: It's 'crazy' to call Chip racist

Ronda Rousey calls out Cyborg

Five most underrated players in the NFL

Five potential NFL salary cap casualties this preseason

Winners and losers of the 2015 MLB trade deadline

Pirates do Pirates at deadline: Neat little moves

Mets acquire Cespedes from Tigers

Ranking the NFL’s 32 head coaches

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker