A win is a win. It's a common sports saying that many fans use to cover up the glaring weaknesses of their favorite team.
The New England Patriots won yesterday 34-27 on the road against the Washington Redskins. The game was in many ways a success because the Pats improved to 10-3 on the season, keeping them tied with Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and the Texans, for the best record in the AFC.
The Washington Redskins offense played well, putting up 27 points, scoring 20 in the first half. The team had only been averaging 17 points per game through their first 12 games, but seemed to be rolling on all cylinders yesterday.
The Patriots defense, especially their secondary, played a large role in the previously stagnant Redskins offense putting up their best performance in weeks.
Redskins receivers seemed to be sitting wide open in the increasingly softening Patriots zone defense every time Rex Grossman went back to pass. At many times during yesterday’s game, there wasn’t one Patriots defender within five yards of an open Redskins receiver.
Devin McCourty’s play has been the most disappointing for the Patriots this season. Last year, McCourty was second in the league behind only Ravens star safety Ed Reed with seven interceptions, and was named first team All-Pro.
McCourty seemed well on his way to joining Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Rodney Harrison, and Asante Samuel, in the lineage of great New England defensive backs the past decade.
However, McCourty has taken a major step back this season. He has seemed to have brought the sophomore slump phrase to a whole new level.
This season, McCourty has been targeted more times per game than any cornerback in the league, and has given up more yards per game as well. Opposing teams see a weakness in McCourty’s game, and are attacking him at will this season.
At the beginning of the season, McCourty was struggling to defend the likes of Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson, which is understandable because most cornerbacks find it difficult to cover receivers of their caliber.
It's one thing to get burned by top-tier receivers, but in recent weeks McCourty has been getting toasted by Pierre Garcon, Donte Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney.
If the Patriots had other quality defensive backs on their roster, then some of McCourty’s struggles could be covered up. Unfortunately, the Patriots secondary is so thin that they have been forced to use receivers Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater as defensive backs.
The Patriots depended on Devin McCourty to carry their secondary this season. The major steps back he has taken this season may cost the Patriots a chance at winning another Super Bowl.