FOXBORO — Wearing a uniform designed to honor the franchise’s past, Patriots linebacker Matt Judon made some of his own history Sunday.
With two sacks, Judon became the first Patriots player to start a season with at least one sack in the team’s first five games. Judon dropped Lions quarterback Jared Goff early in the second quarter, then clobbered Goff again closer to halftime of the 29-0 win. His second sack knocked the ball out of Goff’s grasp, and into the hands of Kyle Dugger, who returned it 59 yards for a touchdown.
To that point, the Patriots had contained Detroit’s top-ranked offense in a 6-0 ballgame. But it was Judon’s strip sack that put the game entirely on Patriot terms, allowing them to run the ball with a comfortable lead and force the Lions to play catchup.
“It was obviously a key point in the game,” Pats safety Devin McCourty said. “To get the first touchdown of the game, get some breathing room and to do what we’ve done the last two weeks is score on defense. I think it’s huge.”
Several defenders noted Detroit’s No. 1 ranking and strong offensive line post-game, saying it motivated them. As for Judon, he didn’t put much stock into it, saying he’ll take the Pats’ defensive front over any offense in the league.
“They do have a good line, but I’m taking whoever we line up and puts their hand in dirt over anybody. [Josh] Uche, (Deatrich) Wise (Jr.), DG (Davon Godchaux), Carl (Davis Jr.) LG (Lawrence Guy), (Christian) Barmore. I’m taking us over anybody,” he said. “So, all respect to their offensive line and offensive lines throughout the league, but we kind of really don’t care.”
Judon’s six sacks have thrust him close to the NFL lead. 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa entered Week 5 with a league-high six. Back in the summer, Judon noted he needs to finish the season stronger, after recording 12.5 sacks through the team’s first 13 games last year and one QB over the final five.
That same notion wasn’t lost on him Sunday, even as he made history.
“I’ve gotta stay conditioned and healthy,” Judon said. “When I can do that, I can play like I do first game and last game the same, I think I’m a different person. So if I stay in condition and healthy, I think I’ll be able to play throughout the year at a high level.”
Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett owns the single-season franchise record with 18.5 sacks. Judon’s teammates hope he breaks it.
“I want him to keep going. Break the sack record, just keep going,” said Pats defensive tackle Carl Davis. “I’m happy for him balling with all his hard work and preparation. Also just him being a leader in this defensive room and on this team, he’s very important and vital to this team.”