FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When veteran cornerback Leigh Bodden was lost for the season late last week, the Patriots turned to two of their youngest players on defense -- Darius Butler and Devin McCourty -- to shoulder the load for the team at cornerback.
“I prepared for it all week,” McCourty said. “I knew what we were going against. I knew we had to come out and compete today.”
The 23-year-old rookie out of Rutgers got a head start on Sunday, breaking up a deep pass intended for Owens on the first play of the game.
“Just to be able to make that play gave me a little bit of momentum and kept the defense going,” he said. “Anytime you can stop the offense going deep, it’s a good play.”
The 24-year-old Butler, on the other hand, had less success. Common adversary Ochocinco gained 159 yards on 12 catches on the day, including a 28-yard touchdown pass over Butler.
“Chad made a good release and got outside,” Butler said. “He’s a good player and [Bengals quarterback] Carson [Palmer] put it in a perfect spot.”
Considering the circumstances, it was an impressive performance for the two corners, who were outnumbered by the Bengals receiving duo in NFL experience by more than two decades.
“They did what they were supposed to do,” Owens said. “We didn’t do what we were supposed to do.”
Butler and McCourty were part of a Patriots defense starting only two players over 30.
“We knew their defense was young, but they surprised us,” Bengals running back Bernard Scott said. “I didn’t expect them to make the plays they made. … I take my hat off to them; they are a hell of a team.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick had similar feelings on his young cornerbacks’ performance.
“[They] matched up against good receivers [and] a good quarterback,” he said. “I thought at times the coverage was pretty tight. ... I thought we battled them and hung in there.”
Despite comments from their coach and the opponent, the members of the Patriots defense know they still have their work cut out after allowing 24 points on Sunday.
“I’ll watch the film and see some things we did wrong, [and] see some things we did right and go from there,” Butler said.
“We got a win, and that’s what’s important.”