DETROIT – The Patriots didn’t play the first half they wanted against the Lions, and things weren't getting better at the start of the third quarter.
Trailing 17-10, they fizzled on their opening drive of the second half. Then the Lions ripped off a 17-yard run on their first offensive play and the momentum was clearly on their side.
Enter Devin McCourty.
The rookie Patriots cornerback intercepted quarterback Shaun Hill at midfield and after a 23-yard return, set the Patriots up for a touchdown. From there, the complexion of the action changed.
“That was a big play by Devin there that kind of really swung the game a little bit,” coach Bill Belichick said. “It gave us field position and put us back where we could be even-par with Detroit instead of chasing them all the time like we were in the first half.”
Quarterback Tom Brady called it a “huge play in the game”, while defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said “from that turnover on, we were just clicking.”
McCourty, the Patriots’ first-round draft choice from Rutgers, was matched up against Lions receiver Calvin Johnson on the play.
“I was just trying to play physical with him at the line and he inside released and I could just tell he was going deep,” McCourty said. “So I got my eyes back and once I spotted the ball, you know with Calvin Johnson if you don’t go up and get it he’s definitely going to get it. I just tried to beat him to the ball and if it’s a jump-ball contest, he’s going to win 95 percent of the time.”
McCourty added another interception in the fourth quarter, his fifth of the season.
“It was a little bit of an overthrow,” he said of the second pick, which he snared at the Patriots 38-yard line and returned 50 yards. “I started right [on the return] and once I went back left I thought I was going to score but there wasn’t enough field.”