ATLANTA — Jason McCourty didn’t have enough time to think. He had to go. Brandin Cooks was standing wide open in the end zone, not a player within 20 yards of him, the New England Patriots defense having broken down somewhere.
To this point, neither the Patriots nor the Los Angeles Rams had scored a touchdown; instead, locked in a defensive battle that had the Patriots leading 3-0 late in the third quarter of Super Bowl LIII.
But now, the Rams were driving and quarterback Jared Goff had finally spotted Cooks wide open in the middle of the end zone. When Goff released the ball from the 37-yard line, McCourty didn’t have a foot in the end zone. He was standing on top of the 10-yard-line marker.
As he did, McCourty, who a year ago was on the sidelines watching his twin brother play in this game and now was the only Patriot between the Rams and a 7-3 lead, put his head down and ran.
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“As I’m running I’m like, ‘Man, I’m not gonna make it, I’m gonna hit him in the end zone as he’s catching it,’” McCourty explained in the locker room after as his twin brother Devin stood next to him, talking trash.
“He probably could have been there closer to pick it,” said Devin, smiling. “That’s what he was supposed to do.”
In reality, it was a total breakdown by the secondary. Lucky for the Patriots, Goff needed an extra beat to see Cooks, and by the time his ball found him Jason McCourty was there, knocking him and the ball out of the back of the end zone.
The Rams would tie the game on a field goal a minute later, but that’s all. No touchdown. No lead. No deficit for the Patriots, who would surrender nothing else in a 13-3 victory.
“I don’t think I had enough time for the oh-s–t moment,” Jason McCourty explained, “but I think after was the oh-s— moment when my teammates came by and was all, ‘Good play.’”
Said Devin, giving his younger brother by 27 minutes a little credit: “He sees the play, diagnosis it and takes off and really probably made one of the plays of the game. I didn’t see it. I turned around and saw how open he [Cooks] was and just said, ‘Hey, that was a great play J-Mac.’ ”
Maybe the play from a guy who last year was on a 0-16 team.
The McCourty twins had always dreamed of playing together, but nine years in (10 for Jason), it hadn’t happened until this past offseason when Jason was a free agent and the Patriots were looking for a defensive back.
From defeated to Super Bowl champion — Jason McCourty has now lived both ends of the spectrum.
“Me and Danny Shelton embraced on the field after the game,” McCourty explained. “I remember being there [in Cleveland] last year and Danny’s locker was next to mine and I felt for him, because he was a young guy … And now to be here together, the ups and downs of this season, to stand on the field as the confetti’s falling, this is why we play this game.”
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