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Can Judon and the pass rush lead the Pats to the playoffs?

The strength of the 2022 Patriots has been their 50-sack defensive front and if they're to knock off the Dolphins and Bills, the pass rush will have to play a big role.

Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon (9).
Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon (9).

It's been another strong season for Matthew Judon with the Patriots, as he secured a fourth-straight Pro Bowl appearance and sits at a team-leading 15.5 sacks with two games to go, needing just three more to match Andre Tippett's single-season team record of 18.5 that has stood since his 1984 season.

"I'm pretty sure Tip is tired of sitting on that throne," joked Judon on Thursday afternoon, adding he would like to break the record but it has to come the right way. "Hopefully I can dethrone him but it has to come within the scheme and defensive gameplan. I just can't go out there and be wild, chasing records and chasing goals and abandon my duties and discipline to the team."

Judon is one part of a potent team pass rush that has already hit a team record under Bill Belichick with 50 sacks, second only to the Philadelphia Eagles' 61. He's also coming off his highest-graded game of the season (90.2) according to Pro Football Focus, which also featured six total pressures and an almost game-changing forced fumble that was nearly enough to give the Patriots an unlikely victory. After having an unproductive ending to his first season in New England, Judon has flipped the script in 2022, continuing to make the big plays down the stretch that he's made all season long.

Josh Uche (11.5 sacks), Deatrich Wise (6.5 sacks) and Ja'Whaun Bentley (three sacks) come in after Judon, all setting their own career highs with both the 16th and 17th games still to be played. Christian Barmore might be the most talented interior rusher they have and his return from injury could help spark even bigger and better things from the defensive front on the most critical passing downs.

It appears it is all coming together for the defining two-game stretch of the season.

A tough Miami team stands in the way this week and despite the likely loss of Tua Tagovailoa they still have two weapons in Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill that can take over a game. With injury issues mounting for the Patriots secondary, Judon joked that extreme measures might be necessary.

"Don't be surprised if it's me vs. Waddle on an island," said Judon with a smile, before adding, "We got guys that are going to step up and play in these positions and play well. They've got to play well."

Despite the proliferation of sacks this season the team sits at a disappointing 8-9 record, yet surprisingly still hold their fate in their own hands. Two wins will equal another playoff appearance if the Patriots can put together a full 60 minutes.

"Man, it's been a crazy year, we're still in it, we still have something to fight for," said Judon. "So that's what we're going to go out and play for. We're not out of the race.

"It seems like every week we still got another week. Until we don't, we're going to continue to go out there and fight and play physical and tough defense."

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