Dont'a Hightower vows changes for Patriots' NFL-worst defense

FOXBORO — Dont’a Hightower seems to have an idea how the Patriots can start fixing their defensive communication issues.

“It’s just accountability,” the linebacker said. “It’s something that myself as well as the other 10 guys, 11, 12, whatever guys are out there, it’s on them to do. It’s on all us, and we have to hold each other to a higher standard than that, and that starts today. We got ourselves a productive meeting. We’re about to handle a little bit more things so we know what we have to be and what we have to do. The time’s now. There’s no more next week or any other, so we have to get going.”

A day after they were gashed for 444 yards in a 33-30 home loss to the Panthers, Monday was time for the Patriots’ defensive unit to start looking themselves in the mirror and figure out what’s gone wrong through four games this season.

In the aftermath of the loss Sunday, safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon lamented the defense’s lack of communication, but that’s just one of the issues plaguing the 32nd-ranked unit. They need to now seek a quick fix as they prep for a fast turnaround before a Thursday night game in Tampa.

“When we pinpoint it, we’ll keep that between us,” a seemingly sarcastic Patrick Chung said when asked if the team was able to pinpoint its issues during its film session.

Hightower was point-blank when asked if he has confidence that the defense will turn it around.

“Absolutely,” he replied.

What do you have to do?

“Play better,” Hightower said.

Chung’s answer was similar when he asked what he saw on tape.

“Just get better,” Chung said. “Honestly. I mean, the game’s over. It is what it is. We didn’t play good, so we have to get a bounce-back game here, get back to the way we usually play.”

Hightower said that the unit needs to be detail-oriented and focus on the small things as it focuses on getting better.

“That’s where it starts,” Hightower said. “The small things matter. The big plays and all that stuff obviously it’s easy for guys to see that, but it’s the small things that happen, getting that little bit extra pressure on the quarterback, that extra knock back on the line of scrimmage, that extra knock back on the center or the quick jam at the line of scrimmage. All the little things matter right now and I think what we need to do and what we’re going to start doing is going at that. Don’t take things for granted, you know? Appreciate every little thing and be knowledgable of each small…

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