New England Patriots

Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower mainly plays, well, linebacker. Particularly on defense. But against the Bears on Sunday, he stepped up and made one of the biggest plays of the game when lined up on special teams.

Hightower’s blocked punt last Sunday earned him AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for Week 7, the Patriots announced on Wednesday. Hightower bulldozed the Bears’ Ben Braunecker on an attempted punt with the game tied 24-24 in the third quarter, then dove to block Pat O’Donnell’s kick. Kyle Van Noy scooped up the loose football and took it 29 yards to the end zone to put the Patriots up 31-24. They eventually won the game 38-31.

The linebacker looked like he was diving on a grenade to make the play. Not exactly the form of a veteran punt-blocker, which he certainly is not.

“I honestly didn’t really know what to do because I’ve never blocked a punt before,” said Hightower, via NESN’s Zack Cox. “I just knew if I could get there before he punted it, I could hit him. So once I was able to see that, that was kind of my mindset there.”

This marks the second time in Hightower’s career that he earned a Player of the Week award. He earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 6 of the 2016 season, when he sacked the Bengals’ Andy Dalton in the end zone for a safety and also recorded 13 tackles in a 35-17 Patriots win.

Hightower blocked a punt for the first time in his career in the game. It was also the first time the Patriots scored on a blocked punt since Week 6 of the 1996 season, when Larry Whigham blocked the kick and Tedy Bruschi took it into the end zone in a 46-38 win over the Baltimore Ravens.

— By Matt Dolloff,

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at