FOXBORO, Mass. — Matthew Judon is playing like a man possessed for the New England Patriots.
And, if he keeps up his current, seemingly unsustainable pace, he might force some edits to multiple record books.
Judon on Sunday sacked quarterback Sam Ehlinger three times in the Patriots’ 26-3 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. The stellar performance gave Judon 11 1/2 sacks on the season, making him the first player to reach double-digit sacks in 2022.
With nine games in the books, Judon is only seven sacks away from matching Andre Tippett’s single-season Patriots sacks record of 18 1/2. Additionally, Judon, who currently is on pace for 21.7 sacks (let’s call it 22), has at least a decent shot of matching the NFL’s single-season record of 22 1/2 sacks, set by both Michael Strahan and T.J. Watt.
“I see it up close and personal each and every day in practice,” Patriots pass rusher Josh Uche, who also had three sacks against the Colts, said of Judon during a locker room interview. “I’m not surprised by (Judon’s performance).
“He’s one of the greatest pass rushers I’ve ever seen in my life. So, it’s an honor to be able to learn from him and watch his game each and every day and just have him give me advice.”
Defensive lineman Deatrich Wise echoed Uche’s sentiments.
“He’s a very electrifying player,” Wise said of Judon. “Once he gets in the game and he does what he does, the crowd goes crazy, the juices start pumping and everybody just gets after it. Once he makes his play, you can see the morale of the team is building, the confidence of the team rising, our defense getting better and better, playing with more confidence, playing faster. He’s one hell of a player.”
Patriots defenders aren’t the only ones who enjoy watching Judon’s weekly heroics. Offensive players also can’t help but marvel at what the 30-year-old has done since arriving in New England during the 2021 offseason.
“It’s crazy,” running back Rhamondre Stevenson said. “There’s not many people that can block that man. He goes 100% every time. Great teammate.”
True to form, Bill Belichick — who dapped up Judon after his postgame news conference — gave credit to New England’s entire defense.
“Yeah. You know, the sacks are the sacks,” Belichick said when asked about Judon.” Some of those came when the quarterback was flushed out by somebody else, somebody else got them. But it was a lot of pressure from — we got pressure on early downs, created some long-yardage situations. And Ju, Josh, Dan (Ekuale), we had a couple of secondary pressures in there that hit as well. It was just good team defense. Any time you have a good pass rush, you have good coverage. Any time you have good coverage, you’ll have a good pass rush.
“Some of those sacks looked like coverage sacks, where there was nobody to throw to. Some of them were great rush sacks where they didn’t have time to execute the passing game. But good team defense is really what it’s about.”
During his own postgame news conference, Judon multiple times insisted he doesn’t care whether he gets three sacks or zero sacks. He just wants the team to win, one way or another.
“My teammates go out there, put me in great situations to execute,” Judon said. “My coaches call good calls. I’m just willing to do whatever I need to do for our defense to have success. Whatever that is, however it looks and however I need to play, I’m willing to do it.
“Today it was just one of those games.”
Of course, the big question is whether Judon can keep it up. He was similarly good last season before cratering down the stretch as the Patriots defense limped to an early playoff exit.
Since then, Judon has been adamant about avoiding a similar second-half letdown in 2022. And he recently spoke about improving his strength and conditioning in an attempt to hold up for an entire season. New England also has made a clear, concerted effort toward limiting his workload when possible.
If it all works, and Judon somehow maintains his current level of play for 18 weeks, then the Patriots’ best defender has a good chance of making team and league history. Perhaps then he’ll get the national attention that he deserves.
“It is wild no one is talking about that more,” safety Devin McCourty said when asked about Judon leading the NFL in sacks. “But he isn’t really worried about that, he just goes out there and lets the tape talk for itself.
“When the opponent sees that tape, they are thinking about him and his plays before they close their eyes at night.”