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Devin McCourty Press Conference Transcript 12/28

Q: You have a chance to go undefeated on the road this regular season. What does that say about the mental toughness of this group?

DM: I think it's something we try to pride ourselves on. Having mental toughness really starts really in training camp with the different things Coach [Bill] Belichick throws at us, some things that we obviously won't like and don't want to go through but even back in OTA's where I think a lot of teams either practice in nice weather or inside, we get some pretty bad weather in spring time around here and we'll be outside practicing and trying to get better. You hope that that shows up during the season and I think for us that has shown up in tough situations on the road and trying to fight through. So this will be another tough test going down to Miami. They've had a really good season and really have turned things around since we played them last so we know it will be a hostile environment. So going in there and getting a win I think will be big for us. Like you said, overall it will be a great accomplishment but I think for us this is a really tough test. We haven't won down there in three years so it's even bigger than just this year. It's just trying to go down there and play well. Not winning just shows we just haven't played well down there.  

*Q: You talk about practicing outdoors and yet it's really a non-factor for you guys because it's generally not the kind of conditions you practice in here. *

DM: Yeah, but we can't get the conditions we'll play in down there. We just can't get it here no matter what. But I think the mental toughness of practicing in anything prepares us for whatever the challenge is - going to Denver when it's super cold, going to Miami now where I don't know what the weather forecast is but like you said, it won't be what it is here. 

Q: What's the challenge of tackling a player like Jay Ajayi who seems to relish the contact and try to dish out hits himself?

DM: That he doesn't want to go down. I think when you watch him you just see in really every situation him trying to break a tackle or throwing a guy off him. There are plays sometimes where it seems like he's stopped behind the line by maybe two defenders and he's just 'I don't want to go down, I'm going to try to run through this.' You see him take a negative one or a no gain and get three or four yards which is just tough. It puts a lot of pressure on a defense. You see the effect he has on defenses where he wears them down where a lot of his yardage is coming in the second half, having huge second halves where he's able to just wear a defense down with four-yard gains, five-yard gains, two yards, then like last week he breaks a 57-yarder in overtime. So obviously tackling is tough but I think the down-after-down for 60 minutes tackling him is going to be a tough problem, too.

Q: What do you know about Matt Moore?

DM: [He's a] veteran guy. We played him a couple years ago when he was a starting quarterback for Miami. [He's] a guy that's not in a situation that is unknown to him. He's started and led that football team. I would imagine that that team has tremendous trust in him player-wise for his leadership and what he brings and I think the biggest thing is he's 2-0. He has taken over and he's doing everything that the offense needs him to do. They're still creating big plays in the passing game whether it's shots down the field or quick throws getting it to the right guy and then breaking a tackle. He's an experienced guy that knows the offense. [He] obviously has a good grasp of it and is going to be ready to go. 

Q: What makes Jarvis Landry more dangerous right now than he was at the beginning of the season?

DM: He's super competitive. He's trying to fight for every yard out there. We often talk about here [how] he's like a running back once he gets the ball in his hands - fighting for extra yards, making guys miss. He's a tough guy that you've got to surround. I think times that we do well against him is when we surround him with a bunch of guys getting to the ball, whether it's a quick throw or a screen pass, anything. They give him the ball in so many different ways but I think when we pursue and get to the ball and if he makes one guy miss we have two and three guys following up. I think the key to stopping him - he's a very tough guy to bring down in the open field so the more guys we get to him the better off we're going to be. 

Q: How much pride do you take in tackling and bringing a guy to the ground? How hard do you work on it every week?

DM: I take a lot of pride. I just think because of our position - me, Duron [Harmon], [Patrick] Chung, the corners - being out there in the secondary I've always been told when a defensive lineman or a linebacker misses a tackle it's not the worst thing because that's why the secondary is there. But when we miss a tackle, the 12 to 15-yard gain turn into 50-60 yards. So I think you have to take pride in that because whenever you miss a tackle it's a touchdown. I think all our guys, we talk about it, we work on it every day in practice so it's something [in] the secondary where often times people say they get paid to cover, their job is to shut guys down, not necessarily tackling. I think here we understand, especially Coach [Bill] Belichick is old school. He's about tackling. He's about everyone on the defense getting to the ball and tackling. I think it's something as a group we take pride in and try to be good tacklers. 

Q: Is that a difficult thing to work on during this stage of the year?

DM: No, I mean obviously you're not going to the ground or it's not as much physical but there are different things that we do that I think - teach angles, teach where your help is, how to use the help or the sideline to help you. So it's something that all the way back in April when we're not even allowed to do any physical contact, we're talking about it and working on it. So it's just a continuation from as soon as we start throughout the season talking about tackling and working on it.  

Q: Is Matt Moore more of a stationary quarterback than Ryan Tannehill is?

DM: Yeah, I think Matt Moore - he's not a guy that just sits back there and can't move. If he has to he can move around but obviously with [Ryan] Tannehill being a former receiver his athleticism is a little different. I think he's able to just move around and make more plays with just his legs. But I think a lot of that is hard to. I don't think the offense draws some of the stuff up that Tannehill is able to do when he's able to escape or extend a play. What I'm saying is offense is like saying how they're trying to attack defenses. I think Matt Moore's understanding of what they've been doing all year long is still very similar but obviously they're different players and they have different strengths and weaknesses. It's not one of those situations where the backup quarterback comes in and it's now 'How can we change the offense? How can we stop doing this and maybe add this?' I think it's more of them running their stuff and letting Matt Moore do what he does well and it's very similar to the things they did with Tannehill. 

Q: This secondary has been together for a long time and it seems like you have good relationships off the field. What does continuity and relationships outside of the building do for the defense?

DM: I think it adds to communication. We always talk about how big communication is, especially this time of year when you have so many games on teams and you know what they're doing. So you're preparing all week, you're focusing on their tendencies, what they're trying to do to hurt you and then there's always a couple plays this time of year that the offenses and defenses know if you put in that teams haven't seen from you that helps out. I think just the communication - being able to run your base stuff, your fundamentals and get guys on the same page. I think all that starts with the time you spend, the trust you gain, the trust you build with the different guys you're playing with. It has been a fun journey with those guys and I think the different things we've gone through have helped us on the field and a lot of that comes from off the field as well.

Q: Bill Belichick had some interesting comments today about offensive and defensive players and why some guys play on one side of the ball. He said "I think most defensive players need to understand that the reason they don't play offense is because they're not good enough to play offense." What do you make of that?

DM: I mean I would say he knows a lot more about football than me. But I don't know - I don't know what he means 'good enough'. As in we can't catch? We can't - I don't know. Cyrus [Jones] is pretty good with the ball in his hands. I'm pretty good. Maybe I'm no Julian Edelman but I'm okay. But I don't know. Guys I think - on the opposite end I'm sure if he comes in our meeting room he'll tell us we play defense because we're more physical, we're nasty, we like to hit. I'm going to really go with that side of it rather than the 'We're not good enough,' but he has said that to us before. I've heard that.  

Q: When was the last time you played a ton of offense? Did you play any at Rutgers?

DM: No, I was a really low-end recruit at Rutgers. I didn't do much of anything other than what scout team opportunities that I had. But no, just kickoff returns and stuff like that. I've never been a big fan of offense really though. 

Q: Even in high school?

DM: No, we had a running offense and my brother was a running back. I'm not much of a blocker. It wasn't for me. 

Q: You don't even know what you're missing then.

DM: I'm not missing much. Defense is where it's at. What's the saying go? Defense wins championships. 

Q: Would you say that there are many offensive players who couldn't hit like defensive players?

DM: Definitely. There are not many physical players on offense. They stand out when you see a guy who is very physical on offense. It surprises you a lot of times.

Q: Would Rob Gronkowski be one of those guys?

DM: We'd have to try to find a position. I don't know what he would be. Maybe an [defensive] end? I don't know. The guy has a lot of ability so we'd find a way. 

Q: How did you assess Julian Edelman's cornerback play back in 2011?

DM: He's a smart player though. Jules [Julian Edelman] is smart. He used what he knew from offense on defense - route combinations, how guys stemmed routes. He did that and he was very smart. He only needed to know a little bit about what we were doing on defense and everything else he took from his knowledge of offense. So he was very effective for us. 

Q: Anybody in that defensive meeting room that has lobbied to play offense at any point?

DM: Our offense is pretty good. I don't think they're dying to get any of us on defense out there.

Q: Can you talk about finishing right and closing the season off?

DM: I think it's huge. I just think as a football team there is no on and off switch. You know, you can't just decide when you want to play. I think from the outside in everyone talks about really how this week is not that important and how the playoffs are right there. I think for us none of that really matters. We're going against a division team that knows us well, that has beaten us at home over the last three years. I think it's important for us to just know our blueprint, know what we've done week-in and week-out and stay to that. I think it starts today with us in the meeting rooms learning, going out there and practicing well today, carrying that over into Thursday and then Friday and then that gives us the opportunity to go play well on Sunday. I think you don't want to break that for anything. You want to just keep doing that and I think that gives you the mental toughness. That gives you the routine that you need. So many of us are built on routines and being able to do the same thing every day. Most of us, we know what Wednesday is like. If the game is on a different day then we turn Tuesday into Wednesday in our head and that's how we go about it. I think that is very key for us if we want to go out there and play the type of football we want over the next two or three weeks and it starts with us going out there today, practicing well and playing well Sunday.  

Q: Doesn't that carry into what happened last year just clinching the number one seed? Isn't last year motivation enough to get ready for this game coming up?

DM: I think it is but I think whether we're the number one seed [or] whether we're the number six seed, I think like he just brought up earlier, we've done well playing on the road. We've done things where we know we can go out there and win when we practice it and do things the right way. So I think more importantly than any seeds or anything, it's about us as a team - how we prepare, how we get ready to go during the week, us not trying to do something that we're not, not trying to be something we're not and knowing what makes us a good team offensively, defensively, special teams and doing that every week. I think this week is no different than over the last couple weeks where we've done that and gone out and executed. I think as a captain, as a leader, it's important to echo that to the guys and make sure they understand that.

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