BOSTON (CBS) — We’re going to hear a lot about unsung players on both the Patriots and Eagles over the next week, and perhaps the captain of Team Underrated should be safety Patrick Chung.
The safety has been a critically important part of the Patriots’ defense over the last four years, ever since he returned from his one-year break from the Patriots — a year he coincidentally spent with the Eagles. Specifically, Chung has proven adept at locking down opposing tight ends, many of whom are much larger than the 5-foot-11 Chung.
Chung was asked this week what goes into covering players who are bigger than he is.
“Not thinking about how big they are. I go just out there and play them. It’s one-on-one — either you’re going to beat me or I’m going to beat you,” Chung said. “I’m just trying to do my best. If you beat me, then you earned it. I’m trying to keep doing the same thing I’ve been doing to help the team.”
Chung got caught biting on a play-action fake in the AFC Championship Game but otherwise spent the afternoon tightly wrapped to the hips of 6-foot-6 Marcedes Lewis. A four-yard touchdown catch was Lewis’ only grab of the game on three targets.
For the Super Bowl, Chung figures to be spending much of his time defending Zach Ertz, who caught 74 passes for 824 yards and eight touchdowns this season and has 11 catches for 125 yards in the Eagles’ two postseason games.
“He’s a good, he’s savvy, he’s fast, he has good hands and runs good routes, he can break tackles,” Chung said.
While the task isn’t easy, it’s clear that Bill Belichick puts a lot of trust in the player he drafted in the second round all the way back in 2009. The start to Chung’s career wasn’t perfect though, and Belichick took some blame for not playing to all of Chung’s strengths early on in his career.
“He has a lot of skills,” Belichick said this week of Chung. “I mean, we recognized it when we had him the first time when we drafted him. We took the guy in the second round, but it just – for a combination of reasons – I’d say a big part of it [being] mistakes that I personally made. It didn’t work out the way that we hoped it would, but we got it right the second time. I think we’ve been able to utilize him. I wish we had been able to do that when we initially got him, but it didn’t work out that way. Like I said, I think we finally got it right.”
They’ve already won two Super Bowls since Chung’s return, and he will play a large role in whether they can make it three out of four.