The best defense is a good offense, or so the saying goes. This seemed true for years when it came to the New England Patriots: with quarterback Tom Brady leading the offensive attack, the team’s defense was automatically in a more comfortable position knowing the future Hall of Famer could easily flip the switch on opponents and lead the offense to outscore them any given week. So with Brady having left New England, the script changes... right?
Not necessarily, at least if veteran defensive backs Devin and Jason McCourty are to be believed.
The twin brothers, who are both projected to again fill starting roles within New England’s secondary this season, recently were asked on their Double Coverage podcast about the defense feeling any additional pressure due to Brady’s free agency departure earlier this offseason. Their respective answers did not hint at such a feeling, however, and instead tackled the unit’s mindset regardless of who would be running the show on the offensive side of the ball.
“I wouldn’t say more pressure. I feel like, as a defense, if you don’t feel pressure to go out there and try to dominate, then you don’t really have a reason to be out there,” said Jason, who is entering his third season since the Cleveland Browns traded him to the Patriots in 2018. “For me, my last two years on the team, even with Brady being there, as a defense we always were preparing that we didn’t want to let anybody score on us.
“Obviously, it doesn’t always work out that way, but I don’t think we ever went in [like] ‘Well, at least we got Tom on the other side, so if we only get one stop we’ll still be okay,’” continued the 32-year-old cornerback. “I don’t think it’s more pressure, I think it’s the same pressure that goes along with being an NFL defense.”
Brady’s last season in New England — especially over the second half of the year — is a good example for this mental approach adapted by the unit. While the offense struggled to consistently move the ball due to a variety of reasons, the defense repeatedly kept the team in games. The McCourty twins and their fellow defenders finished the regular season as the best scoring defense in football not because of an explosive offense making life easier on them, but because of some outstanding performances within their ranks.
“I think you let your team down if you’re sitting there on defense and all you’re thinking about is ‘How fast can we get off the field to watch Tom Brady score,’” Devin McCourty added. “That’s just not realistic. I don’t think we will think of it as more pressure, but I think when you break down the games — we played in games with Brady, without Brady — where the game turns into a ‘We have to get stops on defense,’ and some games where it was like ‘We’re doing terrible and they just keep scoring.’
“Yeah, it is great to have that weapon, to have a good offense. But as important as it is to have a good offense, you want a good defense because it just helps both sides out,” the team captain, who has been with the Patriots ever since they drafted him in 2010, continued. “That will be our focus, and our offense’s focus is scoring points. That’s not going to change, I don’t care who your personnel is. That’s the mentality of good football teams.”