FOXBORO, Mass. — It’s been a long eight weeks since the New England Patriots last played the Denver Broncos.
In Week 12, when the Patriots beat the Broncos 34-31, Joe Vellano was starting at defensive tackle, safety Steve Gregory was out with a broken thumb, Brandon Spikes played 67 snaps and Aqib Talib‘s hip was banged up. Even cornerback Marquice Cole, who’s now a member of the Broncos, played seven snaps for the Patriots.
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower said Wednesday that the Patriots will throw out a whole new defense Sunday compared to what the Broncos saw in Week 12.
“I just feel like things are different,” Hightower said. “I feel like we almost have a different defense. I do — I feel like this will definitely be up to the front seven and for [safety Devin McCourty] and all those guys to take care of things in the back end.”
Eight weeks ago, Hightower was sidelined midway through the game because of either injury or poor performance. The Patriots allowed 280 yards on the ground to the Broncos, with 224 coming from starting running back Knowshon Moreno.
Since then, everything seems to be clicking for New England. Nose tackle Sealver Siliga has solidified the middle of the defense, and Hightower has been a playmaker in the run and pass game every week since.
“I feel like it’s that,” Hightower said of everything falling into place. “And I feel like everybody kind of — they know what’s going on. Everybody — you’ve seen the worst times of what we’re gonna get. I feel like it’s a lot of people growing and stepping up right now.”
If the Patriots are going to stop Moreno and the Broncos this time around, there will be a lot of pressure on Hightower. The linebacker said he’s going into the game with confidence. His stretch of strong play will help.