The NFL is all about peaking at the right moment, something the New England Patriots have been able to do several times through the years. Their six championship runs over the last two decades are ample proof of that.
Of course, there have also been plenty of years that saw the team either peaking to soon or for another reason failing to play its best football down the stretch. One of those happened in 2021, when New England went 1-4 over its final four games including a lackluster performance in the wild card round leading to a one-and-done playoff trip.
Every years is different, obviously, but past experiences can still help shape future endeavors. Just ask Devin McCourty, who is not on his first rodeo in that regard.
Appearing on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show on Tuesday, the 13-year veteran spoke about his mindset heading into the homestretch of the season. And not just that: he also called on his teammates to follow his lead.
“I think obviously it was a big deal last year because of the streak we went on,” McCourty said. “I think probably, if you talk to Coach [Bill] Belichick, there might be more from an overall team standpoint, but I know as an individual individual player — my understanding always at this time of the year is you just got to do more. And that doesn’t mean more running or more lifting.
“The film study, those are the little things that you have to do more of because every team now has 10, 11, 12 games of what you’ve been doing. They know you as a player, they know you as a defense, an offense, a special teams, schematically. Those are the things that, to me, you have to do a better job of, if we put something new in, executing it at a high level.”
The Patriots’ stretch run this year will be a challenging one, continuing with a prime time matchup with the Buffalo Bills this Thursday night.
Following that game, the Patriots will take on the Arizona Cardinals and Las Vegas Raiders on the road before back-to-back home games against Cincinnati and Miami. They will then close out the season on the road versus the Bills, possibly with a playoff spot still in the balance.
Needless to say, the Patriots need to be able to bring their A-game — something they have not been able to consistently do so far this season despite their winning record. For McCourty, it all goes back to preparation.
“The things that we do, you can’t be a little off,” he said. “You just have to play better, and I think playing comes from doing more preparation. That’s what I learned from the guys that were here when I first got here, when they used to talk about this time of the year. You’re just trying to continue to try to do those things. This time of the year you’re getting everybody’s best, and you’re usually playing the best teams in the league.
“That’s why you have to take it up a notch. It’s not easy to do in this league, but that’s why the good teams do it and the teams that are not able to do it — you kind of see the difference of, ‘Alright, this team is a contender; this team, who we thought had a chance, they’re not there yet.’ So, we just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, do more, prepare more, put more into it, and then see where we kind of fall at the end of it.”