By nature, Bill Belichick is inclined to trust his veterans on defense.
But Sunday, his rookies stepped up and made plays to spark things.
First-rounders Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower and second-rounder Tavon Wilson were key to a defense that made Titans running back Chris Johnson a non-factor, and led the way to a 34-13 win.
Wilson caught a tipped pass for an interception in the end zone, and Jones and Hightower combined for the game’s biggest play, a strip sack (Jones) which was returned for a touchdown (Hightower), and created a significant early margin.
“Those two guys probably made one of the biggest plays of the day, the strip sack and the touchdown,” defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said of Jones and Hightower, via Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald. “Those young guys, in their first career NFL football game, they’ll probably make ‘SportsCenter.’ So, good for them. That was a great heads-up play by both of them. That put our team in a good situation.”
After sagging mightily on defense last year, the Patriots went against type and actually moved up to get both Jones and Hightower.
The early returns are favorable, although it will probably take Belichick time to fully trust them.