Linebacker Dont'a Hightower returned from a rib injury to have an immense impact on the Jets game. His 10 solo tackles aside, Hightower brought a physical presence to the field that seemed to ignite those around him.
Both against the run and rushing the quarterback, Hightower was a force on the field all afternoon. He'd missed virtually all of the previous two games with that injury which he suffered in the early first quarter against Dallas.
Tuesday after the team's walkthrough practice, Hightower spoke with reporters about his return and offered an interesting observation about the defense collectively.
"It feels good [to be back], but I know I have 10 other guys depending on me and knowing they've got my back, that helps me play even harder, even faster," Hightower began. "With this defense, we've kind of built a brotherhood. Everyone steps up to what everyone expects them to do. They expect me to come out and play hard, and that's what I'm going to do. Physicality is definitely one of my strong points."
Hightower credits defensive ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich with helping him improve his pass rushing skills. Ninkovich, a co-captain, agreed with Hightower's "brotherhood" statement.
"It's very important. That's why you have those hard workouts and training camp, because it builds that brotherhood, that togetherness, that communication, that 'I don't want to let down the guy next to me and he doesn't want to let me down' [attitude]," said Ninkovich. "The more of that you have, the better you're going to play as a unit. I'm trying to play the best I can for the guy next to me."
"Yeah, I think so," echoed safety and fellow co-captain Devin McCourty. "You can't make a mistake out there without feeling like you let the guys down. I think it helps the more you're out there with the same guys. Now, into Week 8, we've been playing together, and we know who should be where, we know guys that have made plays so we know who can make them. Now, as a defense, we're holding each other accountable."
Brady lauds Tannehill's record
This past Sunday versus the Houston Texans, Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill completed his first 18 passes. Coupled with his final seven completions against the Tennessee Titans a week earlier, Tannehill established a new NFL record with 25 consecutive pass completions. The previous mark of 24 was set by Donovan McNabb back in 2004.
"Yeah, that's incredible. I mean, 25 straight completions, I mean it's hard to do that when there's no defense out there," Patriots QB Tom Brady remarked Tuesday.
"To throw and to catch like that so efficiently, and they're making big plays, too. So they're an explosive offense. They've got a lot of guys who can make plays. So we on our offense have to really counter that. We've got to play well early. We've got to play well. We've got to be aggressive, but they're playing really well. They've got a great football team."
The Patriots used their indoor practice facility behind Gillette Stadium to conduct a walkthrough session. Nearly every player was present except for DE Jabaal Sheard (ankle), OL Marcus Cannon (toe), and LB Rufus Johnson (unspecified illness). All three were inactive against the Jets and will likely be deactivated again this Thursday when Miami comes to town.
While his teammates were inside, WR Keshawn Martin (hamstring) was doing rehab exercises outside on the grass practice field with DL Chris Jones and LB Dane Fletcher, both of whom are on PUP.