Q: As a defense, how do you go about facing a team that’s explosive at every position offensively?
JM: It’s something we’ve talked about all week. Like, everyone has to show up. Like, it’s not a game where we can say, ‘Let’s just stop [Adam] Thielen,’ because I think even the guys that no one talks about, they do a great job. We turned on the Detroit game – you know, [Chad] Beebe catches the first, I think, two or three third downs for conversions. So, it’s everyone playing well, no matter who you get matched up on it. If we’re in zone, it’s knowing where everyone is because when you play against a team with so many weapons and a really good quarterback, if you try so hard to take one thing away, he’s just going to go to the other thing, and they have too many talented guys to just let them go. So, it’s a test, really, for us as a whole as a defense where everyone has to really come and play their best game for us to go out there and play well.
Q: As you’ve been playing longer in your career, do you appreciate these chances late in the season more, like the playoffs, because you know you only get so many of them? Do you kind of savor it more than maybe you did when you were a younger player?
DM: I don’t know. I think, as you get older, you just understand each game is so important – not even later [in the season] – because you just don’t know how much longer you’ll play. So, each season kind of becomes more valuable to you personally. You get in the 30-and-up club, kind of, and you just don’t know. So, I wouldn’t just say now, late November, early December is more important. I would say every game this season and really the last couple years is just important just not knowing what the future holds and how many games you have left in you.
Q: Would you say Thielen and Stefon Diggs are the league’s top receiver duo?
DM: They’re definitely up there. You can go down the list. There’s some pretty good duos out there, but you look at these guys, I mean, it’s like 90-something and 80-something catches, it’s one guy over 1,000 yards, the other guy’s on his way to 1,000 yards. And I think the hardest thing as you go down, Thielen, Diggs, [Kyle] Rudolph – these guys are catching like almost 70 percent of the balls thrown to them. So, very dynamic and explosive group, but I think the biggest thing is when the ball’s thrown, they catch the ball. So, that’s third-down conversions, red area targets – like all of those times it shows up. We’ve got to do a good job not only covering them, but we’ve got to get our hands on the ball or they’ll probably catch it.
Q: In general, is it harder to double somebody in the slot versus on the outside?
DM: I think, in this league, there’s times you do all of it, so I wouldn’t say one’s harder. You just have to know how to play it. I think it definitely differs on how you want to play, but double-teaming, you can do it so many different ways. I think you just have to kind know how you’re playing to do well at it.
Q: Obviously, you have the sideline to kind of use to your advantage if there is somebody on the outside there. I just wondered if it makes it harder because there’s so much space that that slot receiver can use?
DM: Yeah, but I think it’s like anything. Like even if you watch the doubles on kickoff, when you’re on kickoff return and you double a guy, the most important thing is knowing where your guy is. Like, where is my guy on this double team? If we’re going to block somebody and it’s two versus one and if you’re to my right, I don’t want to go all the way to my right and let him back inside. So, I think it’s more being able to work with the man you’re doubling if you do double.
Q: Is there such a thing as building on what you did last week? Or do you just have to improve on what you did last week?
DM: Yeah, it’s all a clean slate. You know, I think the things from last week that we didn’t do well, like you just said, we have to do better because we know in this league, when you don’t do something well one week, it’s going to come back up. So, it’s always kind of constantly improving the things. When we watch the film and we say, ‘This isn’t good enough,’ it’s fixing and working on those things, but also remembering it’s a new game. It’s a totally different team than who we played last week, so we can’t just do what we did last week a little bit better and think we’re going to win, because some of the things are totally different than we did last week because the offenses are different.
Q: How much of a factor will it be in this game that your offense may potentially be the healthiest it’s been all season?
DM: I just hope it means they score a lot of points. At the end of the day, everyone’s happy when we have more points than them. If that means us putting up more points because we’re healthy, I’m all for it.
Q: How do you feel your brother, Jason McCourty, has handled some of the responsibilities he’s been handed this season? Bill Belichick mentioned on a conference call the other day the various roles he’s been thrown into this season.
DM: Did Bill say he handled it well?
Q: Yeah, I think he said he’s been great for [the team].
DM: I can’t say anything else. That’d be crazy. I guess he’s doing OK.
Q: Is it difficult to come into a new system and play all those different roles defensively?
DM: For a guy like him, I’d say it’s really difficult. Hats off to him. He’s doing a good job of studying and learning. I wouldn’t say that’s something he’s known to be good at.
Q: But don’t you guys have a lot of the same qualities?
Q: There are some key contributors on the team now that have not been a part of meaningful December games. Can you see them adjusting to what you guys are doing right now?
DM: I think they’re doing a good job of just kind of rolling with how it’s going. We have a lot of guys who have been in that situation. I think guys are doing a good job of not worrying about playoffs, seeding, who we play in two weeks or the week after. It’s just everyone’s locked in on this week and what we need to do and prepare. I think everyone that’s new, whether it’s a rookie or free agent, they’ve just been like, "Cool, let’s do it. Let’s roll." And I think the older guys are doing a good job of setting an example and not worrying about all of the outside stuff but just coming to work and doing what we need to do. I think when you do that, that allows everyone to focus on the same thing and I think we’re building towards being really good at coming in each week, picking a target of what we need to focus on and just attacking it throughout the week.
Q: What has Obi Melifonwu brought to your position group?
DM: Man, he’s freaking huge. He’s a bigger, physical guy and I thought he’s done a great job whether it’s staying after with Steve [Belichick], talking to myself, [Patrick] Chung or Du [Duron Harmon] of when he’s out there, what we expect of him and what we need him to do and then what he expects of us and what we need to do to help him. I thought it was great, him getting out there last weekend in different packages and being able to help us. A very athletic guy and, like I said, he’s able to go up there and match up on some tight ends. When we talk about being undersized against them, he lines up and it’s like ‘mano a mano,’ same size. Like you see him standing next to Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] and you’re like, "Dang. Gronk doesn’t make this guy look little." I thought he’s brought a really good edge to our group.
Q: Can it be tough for a new guy to break into that safety group given how familiar you all are with each other already?
DM: Yeah, I think sometimes we’ve got to do a good job of fully explaining some of the things we do. Some of the things naturally happen for us without any verbiage or anything, whereas if you’re coming in it doesn’t really say that in the playbook and what we need to do. But I think because all of us have played together for so long, positions don’t really mean as much to us as just a spot. We’ve just got to make sure Obi knows what we’re kind of thinking and not think it’s just understood. I think we’ve done a good job of that the last couple of weeks of just trying to catch him up and get him up to speed of doing everything how we do it.
Q: It seems that you’ve been sent on a lot of safety blitzes this season. Is that something you enjoy doing?
DM: I just do what they ask. That’s the easiest way to keep your job.
Q: So you don’t get jealous when Duron or Chung get to go blitz?
DM: No, we’ve all got roles, man.