The Patriots have an X-Factor going into the game against the Broncos this time and Peyton Manning, but I like to think of it as a Boom Factor named Dont’a Hightower.
The first meeting of the 2015 season between the Patriots and Broncos was a Sunday Night matchup without Peyton Manning, who was dealing with a foot injury, and Dont’a Hightower, who played the first half but was injured in the game, and did not return for the second half. The Broncos rushing game and offense was dead in the water until Hightower went down, only rushing for 48 yards in the first half, but in the second half they went well over 100 yards and 3 touchdowns, one touchdown being the OT game-winning touchdown.
The second meeting will feature a much healthier Patriots team and Hightower against a healthy Broncos team and star QB Peyton Manning, but the Patriots have the ultimate X-Factor in this game with Hightower being healthy. I’ll tell you exactly why he will make a huge difference in this game, starting with the obvious run defense.
Hightower is a great run stuffing linebacker we all know that, and my dad has always said one player can make a world of difference for a team, but it’s still amazing how much one player affects the entire run defense, but he does and it’s because he’s that good. If Hightower stays healthy the entire game and that will be ideal, the run defense will do great. BoomTower is a big X-factor in the run defense, but we all know that, let me get to the main and underrated reason I consider him the number one X-Factor tomorrow.
In 2014 when the Patriots and Broncos mixed it up in Foxboro both Manning and Hightower were healthy and the Patriots defense had the Broncos on lockdown through much of the game, winning in a runaway, 43-21 and Hightower had a lot to do with that game. I’ll never forget how my appreciation and respect for Hightower grew 10 sizes by watching him play chess with Peyton Manning on the field. Manning would audible like he always does and then Hightower would audible, and back and forth they went, and that went on for the entire game. Hightower was the leader of the defense, he wore the green dot helmet, he put the defense in their right positions, and changed the plays. He watched Manning and played his game of audibles and more times than not it worked out for the Patriots. He just may be Manning’s kryptonite in the football chess game, he may be the guy that gives the Patriots the biggest advantage by messing with Manning’s head before the snap of the football and that is insanely important in a game of wits with one of the best play calling Quarterbacks. Manning may not throw like he use to, and he may not be like he was, but he’s still smart and he still reads the defense better than most Quarterbacks, so Hightower playing in this game and matching Manning’s football intelligence will only help the New England defense.
Hightower’s smartness, leadership, talent, and football intelligence will help the Patriots in numerous ways in the AFC Championship Game. He’s the ultimate Boom Factor on defense.