Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 10/22/12
Devin McCourty's fumble nearly lost the game for the Patriots on Sunday night, but it was Rob Ninkovich's fumble that instead secured it as a win. After the Patriots kicked a go-ahead field goal at the start of overtime, a battered and bruised Patriots defense took the field to try and close out the victory. The defense answered the call, but it was Ninkovich who ultimately sealed things up. A few plays after stuffing running back Joe McKnight for a two-yard loss, Ninkovich stepped up and made the biggest play of the day for New England. With the Jets driving into Patriots territory, looking for the game-winner in overtime, the defensive pressure was able to force quarterback Mark Sanchez out of the pocket.  That's when Ninkovich and fellow defensive lineman Jermaine Cunningham brought the heat, combining on a strip-sack that would see the ball tumble back to the New York 25-yard line before Ninkovich finally jumped on the opportunity -- literally. "Jermaine Cunningham did a great job of getting inside on the guard, so it kind of shortened that corner for me and I was able to get around the guy," Ninkovich said after the game. "I saw Jermaine on his legs trying to get [Sanchez] down and he tried to throw it, so I just got the ball, knocked him down and picked up the ball.” His 1 1/2 sacks on Sunday now gives him four on the season. That key forced fumble also marks his fourth this year, leaving him one shy of the five Mike Vrabel forced in 2007 -- the most by any Patriots player in more than 20 years. Ninkovich has a propensity for making big plays just as he did against the Jets. That sort of clutch play has him looking more and more like the opportunist the Patriots' defense desperately needs, at least until they solve their secondary issues. Bill Belichick is well aware of Ninkovich's contribution and how important his play has been, especially in such a big game. "Rob does a good job for us. He made a big play on the running play there, came inside and made the hit in the overtime series and obviously the strip," Belichick said. "He's around the ball and always seems to play well against the Jets. He's got a lot of big plays against those guys." Ninkovich had a pair of interceptions during the Patriots' 37-16 win over the Jets last November, even returning one for a touchdown to close out that game as well. This year's big play may have been just a bit more dramatic, but he's not concerned with which one means more as long as he's able to produce in those big moments. "Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games," Ninkovich said after the win. "So I'm just trying to do that." A big play it was. The forced fumble not only finished off a much-needed win for the Patriots but it also propelled them into first place in the AFC East, a position they intend to stay. And Ninkovich's teammates know how important his play will be to achieving that goal. "In my three years here, he's made big plays in almost every game we've been in. And he's been a big reason why we've won them," McCourty said. "I think whether it's intercepting a pass and returning it for a touchdown, sack-fumble. He just shows how versatile he is at making plays." McCourty's versatility also played a big role in the Patriots win on Sunday. But Ninkovich's flexibility in playing both linebacker and defensive end on the Patriots' defense has been key throughout this season, and it will undoubtedly continue to be important. The strip-sack was just one of the many clutch plays Ninkovich has already made for the Patriots through seven games. Just as he characterized in the locker room after the game, Ninkovich prides himself on making big plays in big situations. And he continues proving that his penchant for heroics is more than just a coincidence. Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Steve Spurrier becomes special assistant to South Carolina AD

Brent Musberger wants you to bet on Joe Lunardi’s bracketology

Unranked Duke uses big first half to beat No.13 Louisville

MLB reportedly close to rule preventing collisions at second base

USOC says athletes concern about Zika shouldn't attend Games

Von Miller shares support for embattled Johnny Manziel

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

The Panthers had to use a silent snap count at the Super Bowl

Report: Lakers would fire Byron Scott to hire Luke Walton

Was Alain Vigneault right about NHL's lack of punishment towards Wayne Simmonds?

Seahawks’ Frank Clark rips Cam Newton ‘that boy a b—‘

Report: Tom Thibodeau has 'always wanted' Knicks job

Report: Luke Walton will not consider coaching offers until offseason

Andre Drummond hits 70-foot buzzer beater to end 3rd quarter

Duke's Allen appears to intentionally trip Louisville's Spaulding

Candidates for New York Knicks head coaching job

Attorney alleges Johnny Manziel ruptured ex-girlfriend's eardrum

Jeanie Buss may clean house in Lakers’ front office

Lisa Ann wants to reward Emmanuel Sanders for Super Bowl win

WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan to announce retirement

Nine best and worst players from 2015 NFL playoffs

Rodman wants Phil Jackson to know he’s ready to coach Knicks

Wade Phillips trolls Cam Newton with dabbing tweet

Top defensive performances in Super Bowl history

FBI questions Jeremy Shockey about drug and gambling ring

Coldplay drummer thought Johnny Football was real name

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

Was Alain Vigneault right about NHL's lack of punishment towards Wayne Simmonds?

Report: Knicks fire coach Derek Fisher

The best and worst commercials from Super Bowl 50

Best and worst from Super Bowl 50

Six best plays from Super Bowl 50

Eli doesn't look thrilled as Peyton wins Super Bowl

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

Curry to serve as drummer for Panthers

Report: Marshawn Lynch plans to retire

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

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