The Patriots’ defense played outstanding all night in Super Bowl 53, not allowing the Rams to advance inside their own 20-yard line for even a single snap of the game. However, one play in particular stood out and had it gone differently could have changed the entire script of the game. I’m talking about is Jason McCourty’s hustle play to break up a surefire touchdown to a wide open Brandin Cooks in the third quarter.
New England was leading 3-0 with the offense struggling to move the ball past midfield for most of the game, which is a testament to how well the Rams defense played in this game. The Rams started finding a rhythm on offense in the third quarter and had driven past the Patriots’ 30-yard line. The Rams ended up kicking a 53-yard field goal to tie the game at 3, but it would have been a lot worse if Jason McCourty didn’t do this:
Jason McCourty won his first Super Bowl with his brother and made one of the most underrated plays of the game. pic.twitter.com/0jYsC4JYLP— Young Boston™ (@YoungBostonTM) February 4, 2019
The Patriots were playing quarters coverage with their two safeties and boundary cornerbacks for most of the second half. Earlier in the drive, Patrick Chung left the game with a broken arm after getting it caught between Todd Gurley and Jonathan Jones on a run play. Veteran Duron Harmon would end up coming into the game in his place, but the Patriots secondary made a huge mental error
Stephon Gilmore was originally lined up across from Brandin Cooks on the play and attempted to pass him off to one of the safeties. Neither picked him up, though, which left Cooks the sole player on either team in the end zone. As Goff was getting ready to throw he sensed the pressure of Kyle Van Noy, who had just shaken free of Rob Havenstein’s block, and threw a wobbler in Cooks’ direction.
Jason McCourty, who was on the other side of the field, noticed the play and how it was developing and busted it in Cooks’ direction. The underthrown ball gave the first-year Patriot just enough time to run the play down and arrive at the same time as the pass. McCourty was able to pry the ball out of the wide receiver’s hands and prevented the Rams from taking the lead late in the third period.
The impact of the play would prove to be huge in the game, as it prevented the Rams from taking the lead and afterwards forced them to settle for a long field goal attempt following to Dont’a Hightower’s second sack of the game. The Patriots offense would then score 10 points on its final two possessions to salt the game before the defense made one more stop with Stephon Gilmore’s acrobatic interception.
However, Gilmore’s incredible pick might not have been possible if not for McCourty’s Herculean efforts on the previous drive. It’s the type of play that should be remembered forever not only for Patriots fans, but the history of the NFL as one of the most iconic defensive plays in Super Bowl history.