BY DAN BEGNOCHE
One minute, the Patriots’ passing defense looks deplorable, evidenced by its 27 touchdowns given up through the air and more than 270 yards allowed per game, which was fourth worst in the league.
Another minute, someone in the defensive backfield is snatching the ball out of the air for a timely turnover, something the Patriots did 20 times in 2012. Defensive back Devin McCourty says New England's defense leans on "character" as it rides the waves. (photo: JDN, Flickr)
“I think everyone on this defense, on this team, has done a good job of taking all the coaching that we get each week – after wins, after losses – and putting it to use and going out there every day at practice and improving and do things better,” McCourty told the media Thursday. “I think it speaks to the character of this team that guys don’t just think that we’ve got it or just think that things are going to be easy.
"We go out there each day and work and practice and try to improve. It feels good when it shows.”
In the second half of the season, New England’s defense moderately lowered the amount of points it allowed while its interception rate increased. In its regular season matchup with the Houston Texans, who the Patriots will face Sunday in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, the squad held quarterback Matt Schaub to under 240 yards in the air and no touchdowns while McCourty grabbed an interception early in the first quarter. That pick led to a Patriots touchdown and a two-score lead.
That type of situation has been common for New England’s secondary -- critical red zone stops and key turnovers to preserve leads.
“Throughout the year, people criticize us, people say different things. I think the biggest thing is we all play for each other,” McCourty said. “I think this latter half of the season, we made a lot of plays and I think we have to continue to do that throughout the playoffs. The key for us is to go out there and just try to make plays when they come to us. if we can do that, we’ll help our defense out a lot.”
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