Yes. I don’t think this blog needs any other words but I’ll put them here to back up my argument for the non-believers. Hightower now has three rings. It’s no wonder the Patriots got carved up by the Eagles last year with him on the sideline. Because he doesn’t *just* have three rings. You can argue, very easily, that he is the biggest reason the defense was even in a position to intercept Russell Wilson in 49. And you can argue, again – very easily – that his strip sack of Matt Ryan in 51 was the biggest catalyst to the improbable 28-3 comeback.
As for this game tonight, Hightower was a goddamn monster yet again. Two sacks, a pass deflection that very much should have been an interception, and a very near fumble recovery after Gilmore punched CJ Anderson’s lunch money out of his pockets. Hightower was all over the field tonight, as he has been in the last three Patriots Super Bowl wins. I can’t say it better than the Patriots’ own coaching staff put it. That tackle of Marshawn Lynch was more improbable than the Butler interception. To bench press Russell Okung with a torn pec is impressive enough. To then disengage said block to bring down one of the toughest running backs ever with the Super Bowl on the line forever won a large spot in my heart. Hightower could have been a bum the rest of his career and I would have made thousands of excuses for him off that one play alone.
But then he went and strip sacked Matt Ryan. Sure a regular sack probably would have sufficed but considering the time left, putting the Patriots on the precipice of the red zone by forcing that fumble was a godsend. It was after that play I was calling him the most clutch defensive player in Patriots history. Even more so than Willie McGinest, the NFL’s all time postseason sack leader. More so than Ty Law, a man in which I’ve waxed poetic about several times over the past few weeks leading up to his Hall of Fame induction.
Now, while Hightower didn’t need to make a singular, game-saving tackle or strip sack to win this game, his overall play felt like the driving force for the entire defense. Especially after Chung went out. Hightower was everywhere in this game. His two sacks weren’t even his most violent hit of the day.
If I had to pick any player to build a defense around, with that defense’s sole purpose being to win the Super Bowl, I can’t imagine picking someone other than Zeus. Sure, Reggie White is more talented. Sure, Ed Reed could do everything you wanted and more. Sure, there are dozens of guys throughout the history of the NFL worthy of this discussion. I just don’t know how many of them did it three times.
PS – What a flex.