McCourty continues to make big plays


McCourty continues to make big plays

By Danny Picard

FOXBORO -- Second-year cornerback Kyle Arrington had the tough task of covering Randy Moss for most of the game on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. With some help over the top from safety Brandon Meriweather, Arrington got the job done, limiting Moss to only one reception for eight yards, while the Patriots defeated the Vikings 28-18.

But with double coverage on Moss, that opened things up for the Vikings' other flashy wideout, Percy Harvin.

Harvin had 6 receptions for 104 yards, but it was the one that was taken away from him, literally, that opened up Sunday's game.

Credit that to Patriots rookie cornerback Devin McCourty, who intercepted a Brett Favre pass that Harvin seemed to come down with in the third quarter. But as Harvin was falling to the ground with the ball, McCourty came over and basically ripped the ball out of his hands in a most bizarre type of exchange. McCourty took the ball away and ran 37 yards downfield, to the Vikings' 37-yard line.

"It was a little strange the way Harvin went to catch the ball," said McCourty. "I guess it bobbled a little and I was able to get my hand in there and then the ball bounced straight in the air, so I was able to intercept it."

The Patriots led by only four points at the time, 14-10, but McCourty's interception set up a 13-yard touchdown run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis, which gave New England a commanding 21-10 lead late in the third quarter.

It was, by all accounts, a game-changing play. And McCourty, by all accounts, has become a game-changing player in his so-very-young NFL career. His interception on Sunday marked the second interception of the season for the rookie. His first came last Sunday in San Diego.

McCourty has established himself as the team's top cornerback, and Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised him after Sunday's win for becoming such a solid player, so quickly.

"Devin has done a great job for us," said Belichick. "Once again, he came up with big plays today, several of them. He helps us on defense. He is a good, solid player. He's smart. He learns well. He really can execute the defensive system very consistently. He's been good in man and zone coverage. He tackles well. He's a smart kid, and I'm glad we have him."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Three weeks removed from his team blowing a 25-point, second-half lead in the Super Bowl, Mohamed Sanu offered a possible explanation for the Atlanta Falcons losing their edge against the Patriots.

Lady Gaga.

More specifically, it was the half-hour-plus halftime show that interrupted the Falcons' rhythm, the receiver said Friday on the NFL Network's "Good Morning Football."

“Usually, halftime is only like 15 minutes, and when you’re not on the field for like an hour, it’s just like going to work out, like a great workout, and you go sit on the couch for an hour and then try to start working out again,” Sanu said.

Sanu was asked if the delay was something you can simulate in practice. 

"It's really the energy [you can't duplicate]," he said. "I don't know if you can simulate something like that. That was my first time experiencing something like that."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick did simulate it. In his Super Bowl practices, he had his team take long breaks in the middle.

Sanu also addressed the Falcons' pass-first play-calling that didn't eat up clock while the Patriots came back.

"The thought [that they weren't running the ball more] crossed your mind, but as a player, you're going to do what the coach [Dan Quinn] wants you to do." Sanu said. "He's called plays like that all the time."


It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade


It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.