Hightower improving in time with bigger role

Hightower improving in time with bigger role
January 12, 2014, 1:45 am
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FOXBORO – The final defensive tally shows Dont'a Hightower with a team-high eight tackles, an interception and a pass defensed. A good night.
 
But given where he was two months ago, it’s been a great rebound. Hightower’s midseason travails were well-documented. When Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo went out, Hightower was suddenly the on-field boss of the running game and the defense’s lead communicator. His individual play lagged and bottomed out against the Broncos when he was benched for the second half.
 
Steadily, though, he improved. Over the final month of the season, he was – save for a coverage breakdown in Miami that led to the winning touchdown – all the Patriots could hope.
 
Standing at his locker Saturday night, a rug burn near his right eye (he blamed it on his helmet slipping), Hightower was asked about being labeled a second-year bust.
 
“I heard it,” he said. “But there’s not much I can do. It don’t bother me at all. Ninety-nine percent of the time the people that’s talking don’t know what scheme we’re in, they don’t know what play we’re in, they just see something and go off of that.
 
“I can be the bad guy,” he said. “I don’t need to make the winning sack as long as I get people lined up and get them in the right position to make a play, that’s alright with me. I’m here to do my job, I’m not here to take any credit for it. I’ve never been that way and I wasn’t raised that way.”
 
This wasn’t a chest-beating proclamation that everyone got it all wrong and nobody believed in him. It was more of a, “I’m quite happy to point out that you folks were wrong…”
 
He’s a little relieved we were wrong too because he acknowledges it was ugly.
 
“Of course,” was his answer when asked if there was a lot on him. “Jerod Mayo goes out, Jerod Mayo knows the defense in and out. He can call it himself on the sidelines. This is my second year, I didn’t know it as good as he did. With all the movements and things I wasn’t ready for it. (Steve Gregory and Devin McCourty) helped me with the coverage stuff on the back end so I didn’t have to worry too much about that and it allowed me to concentrate on the run game.”
 
The run game for the Colts produced 69 yards on 21 carries. Andrew Luck, who can be a real pain on scrambles, was effectively kept in the pocket – 1 run for 5 yards. They didn’t get gashed. They kept the Colts in third-and-long in the second half. They won by 21.
 
He was asked if he will feel good going home.
 
“Most definitely,” he admitted. “Losing Jerod, losing Vince, losing (Tommy Kelly), Aqib in the time he was out, a lot of pressure was on me and I didn’t fold because of the guys around me. Chandler (Jones), Sealver (Siliga), Jamie (Collins), Dane (Fletcher), all those guys had my back. It’s kind of like a brotherhood now, we all play for each other and as you saw tonight when we have fun, good things happen.”