BOSTON (CBS) – New England Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty has had a tough time so far in 2011.

He has been given two tough assignments in covering Miami’s Brandon Marhsall and San Diego’s Vincent Jackson, two of the NFL’s bigger receivers.

McCourty has not been the “shutdown” corner he was known as during his rookie campaign in 2010, with Marshall and Jackson combining for 19 receptions and 383 yards. Jackson caught two touchdowns over the second-year corner, getting the Chargers back in the Patriots eventual 35-21 win on Sunday.

When asked about McCourty’s performance on Tuesday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had nothing but praise for his Pro Bowl corner.

“I think Devin’s done a lot of good things for us. He’s really probably played as well as anybody we’ve had on defense,” said Belichick on a conference call with the media. “As always there are plays we’d all like to have back and do better on and all that, so Devin’s very competitive. He sets very high goals and standards for himself. I’m sure he feels that way too. He’s certainly one of our best players.”

Read: Levan Reid’s Patriots Blog

The defensive guru he is, Belichick is not sure why teams are targeting McCourty so much this season. He also is not putting all the blame for the two big performances solely on his young defensive back.

“You’d have to talk to the other teams that are calling the plays or the quarterbacks throwing the ball. We don’t have any control over that. Everybody’s out there you know, the way we see it, everybody’s at the point of attack on every play,” said Belichick. “Everybody has a job to do whatever it happens to be – run or pass or various responsibilities based on the formations and the plays so whatever those are, we try to do them within the structure of the defensive play on that particular snap. Where the ball ends up and what the offense decides to do with it, defensively, you never have any control over that. It’s the offense’s decision.”

Things do not get much easier for McCourty on Sunday in Buffalo. He will have to contend with the Bill’s Stevie Johnson, who has 12 receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns this season.


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