It Looks Like Dont'a Hightower is Out for the Season


Well if this isn’t a vast, cosmic, steel-toed kick to the yam bag to start your day to I don’t know what is.

Naturally the Patriots haven’t said anything since Dont’a Hightower came out of the game Sunday, because they didn’t have to. All we had to go on was that he reached out for a one-armed tackle of Devonta Freeman who was cutting away from him and his arm yanked back awkwardly. It looked a lot like the times Jerod Mayo tore his pecs. Twice. But then again, he spent the rest of the game on the sidelines, not being lead off to the locker room, so I thought maybe we’d dodged that bullet. But nope. That bullet struck center mass of the Patriots defense and left a nasty exit wound.

There’s no mitigating how bad a loss this is. Hightower is 1A/1B alongside Devin McCourty as the most important piece of this D. He wears the green dot. He can have multiple gap responsibilities playing off the line in the middle or move up to the line in the Will linebacker spot. He’s 265 lbs of pure testosterone you have to stop when he’s pass rushing and will cover sideline-to-sideline in the run game. Which is why last year ESPN’s football show picked him as the most desirable free agent on the market. It’s why the Jets gave him cupcakes for his birthday. And why it was so critical for the Patriots to keep him around.

The worst part of this season so far has been how a Front 7 that looked positively loaded just evaporated overnight. Today it got appreciably drier. Just as the defense was starting to gel. Just as they’d had their three lowest points allowed totals of the season in their last three games. Just as they held a stacked Falcons team to 7 garbage time points. They lose one of their pillars. There’s no polishing this turd. It sucks.

Wait for it. Because it’s coming. Wait for it …

Buuuuttt… There’s always a “but” with this team. I’ll say now what I said last year when Gronk went down. And 2004 when they lost Ty Law. And dozens of other times in the Bradichick Dynasty. I’ll quote Charles DeGaulle when he said “The cemeteries are filled with indispensable men.”

Hightower is a loss, no doubt. The road to Ring VI just got much, much steeper. But this is a system defense. Predicated not on superstars but on reliable guys being where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there. They’re going to have to rely more on Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and David Harris, who until Sunday we saw so little of he could’ve been the subject of an Amber Alert. Shea McClellin is practicing again, but he played eight snaps in the Super Bowl so no one thinks he’s a critical piece. But by no means is losing Hightower a kill shot, by any means. Gronk was the second most important player on the team and they won a championship without him. Those guys just mentioned will simply have to fill that void the way Martellus Bennett and the receivers made up for the loss of Gronkowski. I’m sure there’ll be a trade, but it’ll be for some part timer/special teams player you’ve never heard of but who their pro scouts thinks looks like a system fit. The sun will still rise. Life will go on. They’ll still be in the AFC championship game. Just not with the guy who made the defensive play that turned the Super Bowl around. Still, do your job. Next man up. No days off. Roger that.