Hightower: ‘We gotta hold each other to a higher standard…that starts today'

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FOXBORO -- It wasn't enjoyable. There weren't a lot of laughs. But it was productive, players said.

On Monday at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots dissected the film of their 33-30 loss to the Panthers and went over the corrections they'll need to make before seeing the Buccaneers on Thursday night.

While the big-play mistakes were part of the focus, Dont'a Hightower explained that there were plenty of smaller miscues that need to be cleaned up that might help limit back-breaking snaps down the line.

"That’s where it starts," he 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 detail. I think we’ll start from there and see where it goes."

Hightower played in 37 of 63 defensive snaps, most of them on the edge, and he recorded a fourth-quarter sack that gave the Patriots an opportunity to make their game-tying drive in the waning minutes. Though he felt as though he played a game the day prior, it was a performance for him to build on moving forward. 

Now it's just a matter of helping the defense get things cleaned up. Whether he's on the edge or in the middle of the defense, he considers himself a communicator who will speak up when necessary regardless of the situation.

"It’s just accountability," Hightower said. "That’s something that I myself as well as the other 10 guys, 11, 12 guys, whoever's out there, it's on them to do. It's on all of us. We gotta hold each other to a higher standard . . . That starts today. We had a so far productive meeting. We’re about to handle a couple more things. We know where we have to be at and what we gotta do.

"The time's now. There's no more next week or any other [expletive]. We gotta get going.” 

Asked if the Patriots defense will turn things around, Hightower said, "Absolutely." They have one more full day of work ahead of them to get going in the right direction before taking off for Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

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