FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It took Jason McCourty 10 seasons, 137 games and three teams, but he’s finally going to the NFL playoffs for the first time in his career.

The veteran cornerback and the rest of the Patriots – after an unexpected, two-week delay – earned their berth with an AFC East-clinching win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

“It took me 10 years to be in a position to say, ‘You won your division. You put a hat and T-shirt on,'” McCourty said. “It’s even better to do it alongside my brother (Devin) and the guys in this locker room. So I’m excited about what we were able to accomplish.”

McCourty’s teams in Tennessee from 2009 to 2016 went 50-78. He spent last season in Cleveland with the Browns going 0-16.

The Patriots acquired McCourty in March, giving him a legitimate chance to play meaningful football in January and be reunited him with his twin for the first time since they were teammates at Rutgers in 2008.

While Jason had never been part of a playoff team until Sunday, Devin hasn’t missed the playoffs since the Patriots drafted him in 2010.

“My brother, he’s won the division every single year he’s been in the league,” McCourty said. “Not that he takes it for granted, but he goes in every year with that expectation. We always strived for that, but I can’t go so far as to say it was expected.

“So I think every step you take moving forward, every time you win a game, any type of success you have, you want to relish it and cherish it for a second before you move on. Especially for me, 10 years you know how hard that journey is, being so close sometimes and letting it slip through your fingers.”

The Patriots are 10-5, headed to the playoffs for an NFL record 10th consecutive season, seeded second in the conference standings and holding the tiebreaker over Houston by virtue of a head-to-head victory in Week 1.

They can lock up a first-round bye by defeating the New York Jets (4-11) in the regular-season finale Sunday.

The Patriots can also secure the top seed with a win over the Jets and losses by the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers.

McCourty didn’t start against the Bills, but he was a finisher. He forced a fumble that defensive tackle Malcom Brown recovered at the New England 6-yard line in the third quarter, then intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter.

The forced fumble came on a play McCourty initially bumbled.

“I blew that play,” McCourty said. “Me and (safety Patrick) Chung had a combo thing going on and I was supposed to come off on that tight end. So when he caught the ball, it was one of those … moments.’

“Then you turn around and start chasing him. I was able to rip the ball loose at the end, so big turnover in the red zone to get the ball back to our offense.”

The Patriots had a chance to clinch the division the previous two weeks. But they lost on the last play at Miami and came up short at Pittsburgh.

But safety Duron Harmon, a longtime family friend, told McCourty his time would come.

“Du told me, ‘We’re going to get this one for you’ because they know it’s a long time coming for me,” McCourty said. “I think you have to stay the course.

“Things don’t always work out the way you want them to, but you just have to continue to keep your head down and work, and the next thing you know you look up and you’re where you want to be.”


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