Dont’a Hightower is out, but Chargers aren’t letting down against Patriots defense
By Jack Wang
COSTA MESA — The Patriots have given up 166 points this season, sixth-most in the NFL.
They have allowed 167 first downs, just two fewer than the winless 49ers.
And they have surrendered 2,987 offensive yards, the worst mark in the league.
Just don’t tell that to the man in charge of attacking that defense this weekend.
“It sure didn’t look like they struggled last Sunday night,” Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said this week. “I don’t buy into that. They’re a good unit. They’re well-coached and it’s tough to play there. … We’ve got our hands full.”
To be fair, New England is coming off its best defensive performance of the season, holding the Falcons to just seven points and 343 yards in a rematch of Super Bowl LI. But a day after Whisenhunt’s proclamation, the Patriots (5-2) were hit by the loss of starting linebacker Dont’a Hightower — a Pro Bowler who will be sidelined for the rest of the season by a torn pectoral muscle.
Hightower, who got hurt attempting to tackle Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman, recorded 14 tackles and two sacks this season. He also sat out two games in September nursing a knee injury.
This is the actual spot where Hightower goes down. pic.twitter.com/I33igYYQve
— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) October 25, 2017
“He’s a good linebacker,” Coach Anthony Lynn said. “He’s physical in the run game. He’s a good rusher. So they lose something, but I’m sure it’s the next man up. I don’t know who that will be yet.”
Barring a trade before hosting Lynn’s Chargers this Sunday (10 a.m., CBS), New England will likely lean more heavily on Kyle Van Noy — whom Pro Football Focus recently graded as the team’s worst defender. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown (ankle) and cornerback Eric Rowe (groin) have also […]