For Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower, setting the tone early in a game in crucial. “That’s something that we harp on,” Hightower said. “That’s something that we believe in. That’s something that we practice.” Adam Hunger/Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH — After the New England Patriots pummeled the Browns on Sunday afternoon, Coach Bill Belichick addressed his team in the locker room.

“Played the game the way we wanted to play it,” Belichick said. “Definitely the most physical team.”

As the Patriots have ripped off four straight wins, they’ve begun bullying opponents. New England has outscored its competitors 150-50, they’ve run for at least 140 yards in each game, and the best passer rating for an opposing starter has been Zach Wilson’s 73.3. They’ve been getting after the quarterback early and often.

According to defensive captain Dont’a Hightower, setting the tone physically has been a point of emphasis.

“That’s something that we harp on,” Hightower said. “That’s something that we believe in. That’s something that we practice.”

The inside linebacker has been one of the most physical players on the field over the past month – Belichick called Hightower a thumper – and defensive tackle Davon Godchaux said it’s been making his day seeing the veteran run downhill and blow up offensive guards.

“Basically, you’re in a street fight and a guy is jumping your guy and then you see your brother come in and he helps you,” Godchaux said. “That’s kind of like team complementary football. That’s pretty awesome.”

Matt Judon believes toughness is forged in training camp over the summer and pointed to two players in particular who have made the entire team better: Shaq Mason and Ted Karras.

“I think both our guards, like Shaq and Teddy K, they’re just so physical and do the dirty work,” Judon said. “I think in camp we got them better and they got us better. Iron sharpens iron and I think that’s kind of how it goes. As tough as we are is as tough as they’re going to be.

“I think that’s what a lot of camp is: Make sure this team can withstand the season. Make sure we’ll be as tough as we can be… I think that’s what happens. Our defense took on a personality and our offense kind of adapted it and accepted that personality as well.”

DAMIEN HARRIS, the running back who did not play against Cleveland on Sunday because of a concussion, was present for an in-stadium walkthrough Tuesday after being listed as a non-participant on Monday.

Wide receiver Gunner Olszewski was also present. Both players missed three practices and the Sunday’s 45-7 blowout of the Browns last week due to concussions. It’s unclear whether Harris and/or Olszewski has progressed in the league’s concussion protocol.

Outside linebacker Josh Uche, who was the third and final non-participant listed on Monday’s report, warmed up despite a new ankle injury.

Defensive lineman Deatrich Wise was the only player absent. Wise is not known to be dealing with an injury. He’s coming off a season-high 1.5 sacks and three other pressures last Sunday against Cleveland.

ROOKIE RUNNING BACK Rhamondre Stevenson listed at 6-feet tall, 246 pounds on the official Patriots roster.

The rookie certainly hasn’t been running like a back with those dimensions – his explosiveness has been impressive – and there’s a good reason for that: Stevenson isn’t that heavy. Before the NFL draft, he dropped a bunch of weight and he’s currently playing at 228 pounds.

“Dietary changes. Just working harder. It wasn’t that hard, to be honest,” Stevenson said. “Once I realized I had to lose weight it happened as soon as I wanted it to happen. It was just little changes in diet and workouts, things like that.”

Thrust into a feature back role with Harris (concussion) on the shelf, Stevenson ran wild Sunday against the Browns with 100 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns. Stevenson has a distinct running style that he thinks is a product of casting a wide net.

“I think what makes it unique is: I like a lot of different running backs,” Stevenson said. “I like guys that are even 5-foot-8 and then I like the bigger backs too. So I just really try to take bits and pieces from everybody’s game and just implement them into my own.”

So how would he describe it?

“I just think my running style is versatile, I would say,” Stevenson replied. “What I’m thinking when I have the ball is just that I can never let the first person tackle me. Just get as much positive yards as possible, nothing negative.”


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