Patriots-Bengals Takeaways: Dont’a Hightower Revives Lackluster Pass Rush


Dont’a Hightower wasn’t the New England Patriots’ best player in their 35-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, but he was the team’s best defender.

The Patriots’ best overall players were quarterback Tom Brady, who completed 82.9 percent of his passes, and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who recorded a career-high 162 receiving yards. But Hightower was everywhere on defense, leading the team with 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Here are our takeaways from the Patriots’ Week 6 win.

Dont’a Hightower: 1.5 sacks, three hurries (five pressures)
Jabaal Sheard: .5 sack, four hurries (five pressure)
Barkevious Mingo: two hurries (two pressures)
Logan Ryan: QB hit
Chris Long: hurry
Anthony Johnson: hurry
Rob Ninkovich: hurry

— Hightower rushed the passer just 10 times and recorded five pressures. That’s an absurd 50 percent pressure percentage. Hightower has provided pressure on 26.8 percent of pass rushing opportunities this season.

— Sheard leads the Patriots with 3.5 sacks on the season. He got to Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton on his split sack with Hightower.

— Ninkovich only has provided pressure on four percent of pass-rush snaps so far this season. That will have to improve moving forward.

— The Patriots have struggled to provide consistent pressure this season. Hightower’s return to health should help, however.

Logan Ryan: Two completions allowed on four targets for 52 yards
Devin McCourty: 2-3, 33 yards
Barkevious Mingo: 1-2, 32 yards
Duron Harmon: 2-2, 23 yards
Patrick Chung: 2-3, 21 yards
Malcolm Butler: 3-7, 17 yards, TD, 4 PBUs
Rob Ninkovich: 1-1, 14 yards
Dont’a Hightower: 3-3, 13 yards
Eric Rowe: 2-3, 10 yard, PBU
Elandon Roberts: 2-2, 9 yards

— Ryan led the team in yards allowed but wasn’t bad by any means. He was in perfect coverage on a 30-yard pass caught by Tyler Boyd. Boyd just made a fantastic catch.

— Butler was very solid outside of the touchdown. He got his hand on the ball four times and dropped an interception.

— Hightower is one of the best linebackers in the NFL at keeping receivers in front of him and stopping them for short yardage in the passing game.

— Rowe made his debut Sunday and played heavily in the second half, spending a lot of time on A.J. Green. Rowe made a tremendous pass breakup over Green in the end zone.

Marcus Cannon: QB hit, three hurries (four pressures allowed)
Joe Thuney: three hurries (three pressures)
Nate Solder: sack, hurry (two pressures)
Shaq Mason: sack, hurry (two pressures)
James White: sack, hurry (two pressures)
David Andrews: QB hit

— Cannon led the team in pressures allowed but wasn’t bad. He’s been much better this season after slimming down.

— The Bengals’ pass rushers were able to get after Brady early, but some of that was a failure by his receivers to get open. They weren’t as bad as they appeared.

Tom Brady (29 of 35, 376 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT):
Incompletion No. 1: Under pressure to Edelman
2. Hit while throwing
3. Throwaway
4. Thrown high to Edelman
5. Overthrow to Edelman
6. Overthrow to Gronkowski

— Brady was inaccurate on three of his passes. He threw one pass away, was under pressure on one incompletion and was hit while throwing on another. Overall, Brady did a nice job hitting his receivers on target and avoided throwing an interception for the second consecutive game.

— New England’s receivers avoided drops, and Cincinnati didn’t get a hand on a single passing attempt. Solid day at the office for Brady.

Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images

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