CHICAGO -- Dont'a Hightower had never been on the punt-block team before this week. Of course he'd never blocked a punt in his life.
With the Patriots and Bears tied, 24-24, in the third quarter he picked a good time for his first time.
Plowing over Ben Braunecker at the line of scrimmage, Hightower found himself barreling toward Pat O'Donnell. He blocked O'Donnell's kick and almost recovered it as he was falling to the turf. The thing came loose, Kyle Van Noy arrived to scoop and -- after some difficulty scooping -- score.
"Just lined up, bulled the B-gap, was able to get him on his heels," Hightower said of Braunecker. "I had him on his heels, locked out and kept moving . . .
"I honestly didn't know what to do. I've never blocked a punt before so I just knew that if I got there before he punted it I could hit him."
He did. And then he nearly hit his teammate. When Van Noy didn't scoop the ball cleanly, Hightower -- who had popped to his feet to get in the area of the loose football -- almost took matters into his own hands.
"I almost pushed him to the ground," Hightower said. "He was taking too long. In my head, I'm like, 'They're coming! They're coming! And you're taking too long!' So I [almost] pushed him down or whatever, but it was a great play. Whenever you can make plays like that, especially on special teams, it's big."
MORE COVERAGE FROM PATRIOTS' WIN
- Six takeaways: Pats escape by a yard . . . literally
- Best and Worst: Patriots 38, Bears 31
- Matthew Slater gave Cordarrelle Patterson pep talk before his KR TD
- Special teams save a not-so-special day
- MRI reportedly schedule for Michel on Monday
Braunecker took the blame for the game-changing play afterward.
"It’s really unacceptable," he said, according to Adam Hoge of WGN, "and frankly, I’m really embarrassed about it."
Braunecker added: “You have to be dialed in against a team like that, that’s so well disciplined and well coached. Special teams errors just in general are inexcusable, but those especially, against that competition.”
The Patriots made special teams errors of their own -- including a Cordarrelle Patterson fumble and a punt return that bounced off of Julian Edelman's face mask -- but were able to leave town with their first road win of the season.
Still, despite Hightower's big play and Patterson's 95-yard return for a touchdown, there's plenty for the Patriots to clean up in the kicking game.
"Can be better still," Matthew Slater said. "I think we left our mark on the game today. But we can still be better."
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