The story behind Matthew Judon's game-changing strip-sack


When the Detroit Lions lined up to go for it on 4th-and-9 from New England’s 32-yard line in the second quarter, it felt like Matthew Judon, who already had a sack in the game, was primed to make a big play as he often did last year in such situations.

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Boy, did he.

Judon slashed around Penei Sewell, one of the better young tackles in football, for a strip-sack of Jared Goff that caromed right into the arms of Kyle Dugger, who took the fumble back 59 yards for a touchdown that broke the still-close game open in favor of New England.

Going into that play, the Patriots were up just 6-0 despite moving the ball effectively all game, partly due to a Nelson Agholor drop-turned-interception on their previous possession. When Nick Folk came off the field after knocking through the extra point, they were up 13-0 and seemingly playing with all the momentum on the world.

After the game, Judon hinted the Patriots specifically dialed up a play meant to turn him loose for the game-changing sack.

“As a defense, you want the pressure on you,” he said at the post-game podium. “We have plays called and put in to allow me just to go. Sometimes I’ve got to run a game and loop things of that nature. But, when I get those calls and I hear those calls, I’m excited. I don’t take any play for granted. I play full speed, try to go full tilt, but when I know I get to go, it’s a little extra off the line. Just because I know my defense got my back.”

They had his back — pitching a shutout across the board, including another interception for rookie Jack Jones — and he had theirs, picking up a sack in his fifth straight game to start the season and racking up the most sacks (six) in Patriots history through the season’s first five games.

This one, in particular, made a monster difference in a game the Patriots needed to win.

Of course, New England will need him to sustain this kind of performance for the entire season — something he acknowledged he failed to do in 2021.

But at this point in time, it seems the Patriots know well that they have a game-wrecking force on the edge in Judon, and they’re not afraid to turn him loose when they need a big play. Even better: he’s showing he’s got that extra gear needed to pull it off.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports