FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Unless one has a sideline pass and is in the New England Patriots' bench area on game day, it is nearly impossible to get a true feel for how the team makes critical in-game adjustments.
But every once in a while, Bill Belichick and players peel back the curtain by bringing situations to the forefront, and this week is one example.
On Monday, Belichick lauded the work of safety Devin McCourty in helping the Patriots alter their defensive plan in Sunday's 35-17 win against Cincinnati, noting how a player at his position "can give great information and great perspective on how they see the game from back there" as a "good player back there can really see all 22 guys."
Here's one example of how it unfolded:
After the Bengals went ahead 14-10 on their opening drive of the third quarter, McCourty and his teammates were on the bench when they highlighted one play on the touchdown drive -- a 27-yard completion to receiver Tyler Boyd during which quarterback Andy Dalton broke out of the pocket and easily found Boyd in the middle of the field against the Patriots' zone defense.
During the game, McCourty shared his view with the coaching staff that the team's underneath coverage (which appeared to be safety Patrick Chung and linebacker Elandon Roberts on the play) pursued Dalton as he broke out of the pocket, which left a gaping hole in the zone between the underneath coverage and the two deep safeties. His advice, in part, was to have the underneath coverage players look behind them before pursuing Dalton when he broke the pocket.
"Some of the comments and observations that he made affected some of the things we were thinking about doing," Belichick acknowledged. "I think, as usual, he was right on the money with his observations, especially when you go back and take a look at the film a little more closely. You see what he saw. Then a couple of the things we tried to do after that, he was very helpful in kind of recognizing that and helping us steer some of those things in the right direction."
The Bengals scored just three points the rest of the game, as the Patriots played some more man coverage in the second half while making a personnel switch to have cornerback Eric Rowe enter the game in the nickel instead of a third safety.
For McCourty, who made the switch to safety two years into his NFL career after initially playing cornerback, having a full view of the field and being able to share information with the coaching staff and teammates has been something he takes pride in doing.
"That was the biggest adjustment. It took a while to getting used to that and being able to facilitate that information to everybody," he said of making the position switch. "At corner, you start putting things together from your side out wide. I remember I used to always talk to Kyle [Arrington] during games about what I saw on my side and what he saw on his side. Now I can even see things in the run game just from being back there."