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Judon, Hightower see Patriots defense coming together

The Patriots linebackers will be ready for anything when they take on Atlanta on Thursday night.


Matthew Judon, Dont'a Hightower and the rest of the Patriots defense continued their shortened preparation process on Tuesday, taking a short break to meet with the media as they get ready to travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons.

"Just get your legs back under you," said Judon of the key parts to the quick turnaround between games. "Make sure you're mentally prepared. Film study is a huge part of this game because it's kind of hard for the coaches to game plan two games right back to back, so they kind of just use their bread and butter. A lot of stuff that you see on the film will come up this week so you gotta make sure you're prepared."

The defense will once again play a key role if the Patriots are to get their seventh win of the season, facing a talented veteran quarterback in Matt Ryan. In recent weeks they've made significant strides, holding opponents under 300 yards in three of their four wins. One of the key components starting to shine through? Their toughness.

"That's something that we harp on, that's something that we believe in and that's something that we practice," said Hightower of the team's toughness. "Whether it's an identity or people see that when they see us that doesn't really matter. All that stuff is cool but in between the lines if you don't go out and actually do it, if you don't go out and actually execute and be dominant all that stuff just tails off."

A big part of the emerging identity has been the free-agent addition Judon, who leads the team with 9.5 sacks, tied for fourth-best in the league. Off the field, his impact has been equally important, as the former Raven has integrated himself into the locker room by getting to know everyone, from the long-time Patriots like Matthew Slater to the practice squad players.

"I always give the credit to my teammates," said Judon. "For the season I'm having I adopted some of the stuff that they do. Like Matthew Slater, he gets in there and he gets on the wind bike, I was like 'he's been playing at a high level for so long I'm going to do the wind bike.' [Ja'Whaun] Bentley and [Adrian Phillips], they work out then they sauna. I can't stand the sauna that long but I'll be going in the sauna with them. [Devin McCourty], he gets in the hot tub with Epsom salt bath so I started taking Epsom salt baths. And then they adopt some of the stuff I do. That's just how it goes that's how you become you create bonds, that's how you become a family."

That Patriots family is really starting to come together, clearly evidenced last Sunday by the touchdown parade to the end zone to celebrate Jakobi Meyers' first touchdown.

"Coach talks about it being a process, it's not just a process for the players," said Hightower. "Guys having to build that chemistry on the field and then also coaches being able to understand and feel the kind of vibe and energy the players are getting off. The season is a process. We try to build on each week and I feel like so far we've done that and each week you can tell."

Now they'll look to take another step forward in their process against the Falcons.

"We gotta be ready for anything and everything and it's Thursday, we're the only game on TV," said Judon. "We'll be ready and prepared but we just gotta make sure we are prepared."

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