BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Bill Belichick has invested a lot of money in the safety room, specifically in creating what amounts to a Big Three in there – Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon.

And they all have delivered for the New England Patriots coach, both on and off the field.

They’ve been Belichick’s go-to guys for leadership, not to mention stability and dependability in the defensive backfield.

Given how well they’ve performed and all they’ve provided this season and in years past, the investment the Pats have made in them this year has been money well spent.

McCourty and Harmon were both elected captains, while Chung could easily hold the title, given the respect he commands in the room.

But beyond the important leadership they provide, each safety brings something special to the table, and that’s what really makes the Big Three stand out.


Let’s rewind to the Pittsburgh game in Week 15 and the pivotal play late in the fourth quarter with the Steelers on the 7-yard line and feverishly attempting to score in the final seconds.

This is where McCourty’s presence really rises to the forefront. According to cornerback Eric Rowe as well as Harmon, who ended up picking off the ill-fated pass intended for Eli Rogers, it was McCourty who delivered the first alert that Ben Roethlisberger was going to line up and try a fake spike to win the game.

“Dev called it: ‘Watch the fake spike,’” Harmon said of McCourty, who signed a five-year $47.5 million contract in 2015. “He’s such a smart player. He offers a lot of wisdom in games, and in life. We lean on him and look up to him.”

Roethlisberger’s botched pass was deflected by Rowe and the ball landed in the arms of Harmon as the Patriots secured the 27-24 win that helped earn back the top seed in the AFC and home field for the playoffs.

Then, there’s Chung.

Last week in Foxborough, Belichick was asked about his No. 2 safety, who’s been like a chameleon on defense. Chung has been at strong safety, but he’s also been used as a slot corner and a linebacker. That kind of versatility alone makes him a favorite of Belichick.


“The guy is a really good football player. He’s one of the best players in the league, one of the best players on our team,” said Belichick. “He does a lot of things very well and has done them that way for a long time. We’re lucky we have him. He’s an outstanding player in all the things that he does. We put a lot on him, and he always comes through.”

Chung, naturally, downplayed Belichick’s remarks. He said his coach’s boasts wouldn’t mean much if he didn’t play well in the Super Bowl.

“It only means something if I play good this next game,” said Chung. “So, we’ll see how that goes.”

Then, there’s Harmon.

He’s no third wheel and has earned a spot at the table. He’s made plays, with a team-best four interceptions, and he’s asserted himself in a leadership role. He was one of the more vocal instigators of the miracle comeback in last year’s Super Bowl with the Falcons.

After the game, former Patriot Chris Long – who will be on the opposing sideline for the Eagles in the Super Bowl – made note of how Harmon energized the team at halftime.


Harmon, 27, who signed his 4-year, $17 million contract during the offseason, talked about the now famous sermon.

“A lot of people say it was a pep talk,” said Harmon. “I wouldn’t really say it was a pep talk. It was just me just talking out loud (about) how I felt about this team. It was just me basically saying that I knew we were a great team, I knew we were capable of doing great things, and I really believed that we were going to make the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.”

When it comes to being a leader, however, Harmon doesn’t like to step in front of his two safety brothers. He puts himself in the backseat behind McCourty and Chung, who are both 30. As the youngest member of the trio, he says he still has a lot to learn from them.

“I lean on those two, I think we all lean on those two, because they’ve been in big games, played big roles, and gotten all type of accolades,” Harmon said Friday. “They’re the best players in our secondary.”

Harmon believes what the team gets from McCourty and Chung alone is invaluable.

“It’s so important,” he said. “Having guys like that to keep people cool and calm, it gives the group a sense of comfort and confidence to know no matter what happens, we’ll be alright.”

It should come as no surprise the three are close. They hang out together.

“I’ve been with those guys for a long time. They’re my friends,” said Chung. “We chill out and play pool together, do our thing, but when we come here we work and we compete. We try to make each other better and I’m glad to have those guys.”

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