The Patriots secondary came into focus again after Sunday's win over Jacksonville.
It was impossible not to notice all the personnel shuffling that went on in the backend of the defense because it began at kickoff.
With Alfonzo Dennard inactive, cornerback-turned-safety Devin McCourty returned to left corner. Aqib Talib, active but battling a hip injury, played just eight snaps. Marquice Cole got significant time in the slot. Patrick Chung was back at starting safety.
For all the mixing and matching, coach Bill Belichick noted Monday how important McCourty's ability to be moved around is. The player went back to corner after playing every defensive snap at safety for eight-straight games.
"Devin gives us a lot of flexibility; he's such a versatile guy. He's an excellent tackler, which makes him a candidate to play inside at safety. Of course, you know about his speed and toughness, good ball skills, and the fact that he can go outside and play competitively in this game, where we needed him, or come inside when we needed him in there at safety and give some stability back there. He's so unselfish. Hes well prepared. He's got a good set of skills for either position really, corner or safety.
"He's a total team-first player and I think thats reflected in the fact that his teammates selected him as a captain in his second year on the team. Thats pretty unusual," Belichick said. "That's the way he is; he's very unselfish and does what he needs to do or where he's needed and he does it well. Hes come through for us defensively and in the kicking game in a variety of roles."
Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia agreed.
"Obviously as a leader and a captain of our defense of our team, Devin understands that and just wants to do whatever he can to help us win. And certainly for him to be able to do that and continue to kind of be a multi-faceted player for us is very beneficial for us and a credit to his work and his preparation every week."