Foxboro -- Dont'a Hightower, 28, missed most of last season with an upper-body injury. This year he has been healthy and only missed one game. It is the most games he has played since 2013. By the count of Pats Maven, Hightower had eight QB pressures on Sunday in the Pats victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. Hightower showed Sunday why the Pats drafted him in the first round with his intelligence and instinctive nature. Hightower is proud that he has been with his teammates for almost every game.
“That means a lot,’’ Hightower said Tuesday. “My time on the field hasn’t always been as much as I wanted it to be, but this year it’s meant a lot to me I’ve been out there and I’ve been able to play. I’ve been able to be with my teammates from OTAs to minicamp, so I’ve enjoyed it. Looking forward to keeping this thing going, so just [doing] whatever I can this week to keep that thing going.’’
Hightower will be a critical force on Sunday if the Pats are to slow down Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs high-flying offense. The last time the Chiefs and Pats played Hightower had his only interception of the season when he faked a blitz and dropped back into the zone where Mahomes thought there would be free space to throw the ball.
Hightower was in essence the "rat" on the run pass option that is a staple of the Chiefs offense. The concept behind the RPO is simple. The QB reads the linebackers and decides based on the linebackers movements whether to hand the ball to the running back or throw it. The linebacker will sometimes fake the blitz to see the intentions of the QB. Hightower emphasized that communication will be key on Sunday in Kansas City.
"A lot, especially when those players, Tyreek Hill or Chris Conley or Kelce, those are big players who can change a coverage or change a front or something. So, communication is going to be big. That’s something that we’ve done well the last couple of weeks, so hopefully we’ll continue to build on that. That’s something that we take pride in as far as trying to be a smart defense is communication, and without communication, that can be the downfall of a play, so we try to stay on top of that this wee," Hightower said.
Hightower also knows that it will be key to play 60 minutes. When the Pats played the Chiefs in October, they held the Chiefs to nine points in the first half and gave up 31 points in the second half. Tyreek Hill caught only three passes for 43 yards in the first half and no touchdowns. In the second half, Hill caught four passes for 99 yards and had three touchdown catches. Most heartbreaking for the Pats was after taking a 40-33 lead, Mahomes hit Hill on a slant route who ran all the way for a touchdown to the tie score at 40. The Pats eventually won 43-40.
"I mean, we played the first half literally the exact way we wanted to. We were able to mix things up, keep those guys guessing and keep them on their toes, not letting those guys make big plays. With an offense like that, you give Any Reid any kind of time and he’s able to draw up a couple things, and that’s something that we learned in the second half was that we’ve got to play a full 60. He was able to draw up a couple plays and make a couple big plays and score at the end. So, if anything, definitely just to finish the full 60 minutes," Hightower said.