Dont’a Hightower: Patriots’ Run Defense Lacked Technique, Not Power

Dont'a HightowerFOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots don’t need to hit the weight room after Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins. They just need to get back on the practice field for positional drills.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower said the Patriots didn’t play “fundamentally sound” against the Dolphins’ run game, leaving cutback lanes open for running back Knowshon Moreno. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson similarly can take advantage of those rushing lanes this weekend, so the Patriots will need to hold their ground and fight off blockers to close those holes.

“It really wasn’t an overpowered thing, it was more about the technique,” Hightower said Wednesday in the Patriots’ locker room. “It was little small things that we see now when we watch film. It’s not as bad as we thought it was, but it was bad. Technique, playing fundamentally sound — we weren’t doing as good as we should. Those cutback lanes that Moreno likes, that’s what was given there. We weren’t squeezing hard enough. Those jump cuts he likes to make, just like AP does, those are things we need to get corrected.”

One of the most overused phrases at Gillette Stadium is “do your job.” There’s even a T-shirt sold at the Patriots Pro Shop with the phrase emblazoned across the chest.

Hightower explained that Patriots players failed to do that and tried to overcompensate for other teammates’ mistakes.

“Everybody’s going to have to get to the ball,” Hightower said about adjustments that need to be made against the Vikings. “If somebody messes up, not trying to do two guys’ job — just everybody doing their job fundamentally.”

Hightower was one of the Patriots’ better defenders on the field against the pass and run last weekend. He played middle linebacker at the end of the 2013 season after Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes went down with injuries, but he was being used as an edge rusher in Week 1. Hightower said in May that he’d rather rush the passer than drop back in coverage, and he got to do just that against the Dolphins.

“Definitely love doing it,” Hightower said. “Whatever’s asked of me to do, that’s what’s going to get done.”

Hightower’s 18 pass-rush snaps were the most he’s had in his career, according to Pro Football Focus, and he shined in the role, recording three quarterback hits and three pressures.

Hightower is just another versatile chess piece for head coach Bill Belichick’s defense, and if he’s asked to play middle linebacker again Sunday, he won’t complain.

“I’m doing what I’m told,” Hightower said.

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