BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots’ offense got the game started the right way for New England on Monday night.
Then the defense did what the defense does.
With the Jets facing a second-and-8 from their own 10-yard line and trailing 7-0 at home, Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins delivered a well-timed and well-disguised blitz off the offense’s right side. Collins’ pressure let quarterback Sam Darnold to throw an ill-advised and rushed pass off his back foot, sailing the pass over the head of his receiver.
That ball ended up hitting — who else? — Devin McCourty right in the bread basket.
McCourty picked off the pass, giving him five interceptions on the season.
The 32-year-old McCourty was already leading the NFL in interceptions prior to the start of the game, and he added to it with pick No. 5 on the season.
It’s been a remarkable showing for McCourty, who had intercepted just four passes over the last four seasons combined.
In just seven games, the five picks ties for the second-highest total of his career in any season, tying his five-interception performance in 2012. As a rookie in 2010, when he was playing at cornerback, he intercepted seven passes.
The New England offense couldn’t turn that red-zone pick into a touchdown, but Mike Nugent did kick the chip-shot field go to give the Patriots a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.
The Patriots entered the game with 14 interceptions — five more than any other NFL team. That lead grew by one early in New Jersey.
But it was just the beginning.
Following a Patriots touchdown drive, the Patriots’ defense forced yet another turnover, with John Simon stripping Darnold of the football after breaking into the backfield untouched off the offense’s right side. Kyle Van Noy recovered the ball and initially ran it in for a touchdown, but the officials properly ruled that Van Noy had been (barely) touched by a Jets player prior to getting off the turf.
Duron Harmon recorded an interception of his own later in the first half, high-pointing a wobbler from Darnold to give the Patriots’ defense their third turnover of the night and their 16th interception of the season.
Incredibly, Stephon Gilmore made it a three-interception night for the Patriots’ defense when he picked off Darnold on the Jets’ opening drive of the second half.
Then, after benefiting from another penalty on the Patriots, Darnold threw another interception in the end zone, this time to Terrence Brooks.
That gave the Patriots their fourth interception of the game and their 18th of the season. That ranks tops in the NFL; the Panthers are second, with nine interceptions.