FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots have 27 defensive players on their roster, but to them, they’re more like one big unit.

Dont’a Hightower brought up that idea Tuesday when speaking about the rib injury that caused him to miss the Week 6 game against the Indianapolis Colts. The linebacker was right back on the field Sunday and said he was glad he made such a quick turnaround so he could be there for his teammates.

“It feels good, but knowing I’ve got 10 other guys depending on me and knowing that they got my back, it helps me play even harder, even faster,” Hightower said. “With this defense, we’ve all kind of built a brotherhood. We all kind of come in and everybody kind of steps up to what everybody expects them to do. They expect me to come out and play hard, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Free safety Devin McCourty echoed Hightower’s sentiments, adding that the more the Patriots’ defense plays together, the stronger it gets.

“You can’t make a mistake out there without feeling like you let the guys down out there, and I think it helps the more you’re out there with the same guys,” McCourty said. “Now into Week 8, we’ve been out there playing together, so we know who should be where, we know guys have made plays, so we know who can make plays.

“And I think now it’s not just guys holding themselves, but as a defense holding each other accountable within the game, leading up to games, making sure watching film everyone’s locked in on whatever the game plan is in situations. I think it does nothing but make us a better defense.”

That’s good news for the Patriots, as on Thursday, they’ll look to slow down a Miami Dolphins offense that scored 82 points in its previous two games. It sounds as though this defense is more than ready to step up to that challenge.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via New England Patriots outside linebacker Dont'a Hightower and free safety Devin McCourty react after the Patriots recovered a loose ball by the Philadelphia Eagles during the preseason game.