Dont’a Hightower says accountability is the key to turning the defense around

Can linebacker Dont’a Hightower and the New England Patriots fix their historically bad defense? He thinks they can, but it’s all on them to step up and make plays.

“It’s just accountability,” Hightower said, per Stephen Hewitt of the Boston Herald. “It’s something that myself as well as the other 10 guys, 11, 12, whatever guys are out there, it’s on them to do. It’s on all us, and we have to hold each other to a higher standard than that, and that starts (yesterday). We got ourselves a productive meeting. We’re about to handle a little bit more things so we know what we have to be and what we have to do. The time’s now. There’s no more next week or any other, so we have to get going.”

Part of the reason may be Hightower himself. He was injured in the first game of the year, against the Kansas City Chiefs, and finally returned – playing roughly half of the defensive snaps – in the most recent loss to the Carolina Panthers. Without him, the defense has fallen apart.

“In the first four games, NE has allowed 128 points, the most in team history,” wrote NFL Network’s Kimberly Jones. “Previous high under [Bill Belichick]: 108 (2005). In 2016, the 128th point was allowed in Week 8.”

Hightower isn’t going to say that his full return will make all the difference. But he did say he thought they could figure it out in time and get the defense clicking again.

“That’s where it starts,” Hightower said. “The small things matter. The big plays and all that stuff obviously it’s easy for guys to see that, but it’s the small things that happen. All the little things matter right now and I think what we need to do and what we’re going to start doing is going at it at that. Don’t take things for granted, you know? Appreciate every little thing and be knowledgeable of each small detail. I think we’ll start from there and see where it goes.”

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