LANDOVER, Md. — Don’t forget to pay some royalties to linebacker Dont’a Hightower when you print out T-shirts plastered with the New England Patriots’ defense’s new nickname.
And feel free to get spooky with that new apparel. Go heavy on black, orange and purple. It is Halloween season, after all.
“We’re the boogeyman, man,” Hightower said Sunday about the Patriots’ linebacker corps. “We’re the boogeymen.”
Hightower had the biggest day of all the Boogeymen on Sunday in the Patriots’ 33-7 win over the Washington Redskins with eight tackles, three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. It was Kyle Van Noy’s turn in Week 4, when he had eight tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles. And Jamie Collins certainly has had his time to shine, as well. He had two sacks and a tackle for loss in Week 3 and two interceptions and a half-sack in Week 2.
“We want to go out there, and we want to be the engine and the starting force of the defense,” Hightower said. “We know that if we go out there and we play well, then that will hype every other spot whether that’s in the front seven or the back seven. Not even if it’s a linebacker, whether it’s Dev (Devin McCourty) with a pick or JMac (Jason McCourty) with a pick or Du (Duron Harmon) with a pick. We feed off of each other.
“We compete. It’s a great group not just in the linebacker room but the defense, we all want to compete. … We’re trying to get more picks, more forced fumbles. It’s a great defense.”
“The Boogeymen” lead the NFL with 24 sacks. They’re on pace for 76.8 sacks on the season. The NFL record is held by the 1984 Chicago Bears, who had 72 sacks.
“Guys are just buying in,” Hightower said. “We know how we want to attack teams. We just do a really good job throughout the week as far as understanding who we’re playing and what they do, how they might try to attack us and how we want to attack them. And then from the top down, from Bill (Belichick) all the way down, guys just buy-in. It’s a hell of a lot easier when guys buy-in and do what they need to do in order to be successful and win.”
Criticize the Patriots’ strength of schedule all you want, but this unit is playing at a historic clip through five weeks. They’re on pace to let up just 109 points all season. The 16-game record is held by the 2000 Baltimore Ravens who allowed 165 points. The Patriots haven’t led up a passing touchdown all season.
They held Redskins quarterback Colt McCoy to 119 yards with an interception with a 60.6 passer rating. The only touchdown they let up was a 65-yard scamper by wide receiver Steven Sims. Otherwise, the Patriots let up just 3 yards per play while Collins, defensive tackle Danny Shelton, outside linebacker Chase Winovich and the “team” each were credited with a sack. Michael Bennett scored a half-sack, while Jason McCourty picked off McCoy.