Patriots linebacker Donta Hightower.
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FOXBORO — Through six weeks, the Patriots defense is a bit of a mystery.

After a disastrous two weeks in Jacksonville and Detroit, the Pats turned the corner against the Dolphins, holding Miami below 100 yards from scrimmage until the final minutes. They dominated the first half against the Colts before softening up in the second. And they became the first team this season to hold the Chiefs without a first-half touchdown. Of course, Kansas City scored almost at will in the final 30 minutes.

So the current state of the New England defense?

“I feel like we are taking the right strides,” said Pats linebacker Dont’a Hightower. “I feel like each week and we prepare the best way that we can. Most of the time we come out with a good gameplan and we come in with corrections to make on the sideline, so hopefully we continue do that and get better at those adjustments on the sidelines.”

Defensive end Trey Flowers, who missed the majority of the Week 2 loss versus Jacksonville and sat out against Detroit, believes the unit is heading in the right direction.

“A lot of guys are falling into their roles and just understanding what it takes to be a successful defense,” Flowers said. “So we’re working each and every week.”

The Patriots were the only team in the league that held opponents below 20 points per game each season from 2014-17. They have a long way to go to achieve that number. They’re currently toward the bottom of the rankings allowing 24.7 points per game. But, hey, that’s what playing the Chiefs will do.

The schedule should ease up from here. Only three of the Patriots’ remaining opponents rank in the top half of the league in scoring: the Steelers (seventh at 28.5 points per game), Bears (10th at 27.8 points), and the Packers (15th at 24.7).

Chicago, which hosts the Pats in Week 7, is a surprisingly explosive offense. They’ll be a solid test for a Patriots defense that appears to be trending upward.

INJURY REPORT

Maybe the Patriots won’t to need to worry about Khalil Mack after all.

Chicago’s superstar pass-rusher missed his second consecutive day of practice due to an ankle injury. Mack, who recorded at least one sack and a forced fumble in each of his first four games, suffered the injury during the team’s Week 6 loss to the Dolphins.

The Bears’ best offensive player, wide receiver Allen Robinson, also sat out of practice. Robinson was limited on Wednesday with a groin injury, but downgraded to a non-participant in yesterday’s practice.

For the Patriots, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon (concussion) missed his second consecutive practice. Ten players were limited, including wide receiver Julian Edelman (heel), running back Sony Michel (knee), tight end Rob Gronkowski (ankle), and wide receiver Josh Gordon (hamstring). All four played in the team’s 43-40 win over Kansas City.

Defensive tackle Malcom Brown (knee) and defensive end John Simon (shoulder) remain limited. Both players sat out of the Chiefs game.

ROWE RETURNS

For the second year in a row, Patriots cornerback Eric Rowe was knocked out of the lineup with an early-season groin injury.

Fortunately for Rowe, this one didn’t cause an extended absence.

Rowe missed three games before returning in Sunday night’s win over the Chiefs. Last season, a Week 4 groin injury sidelined him until December.

“Now, it feels good to be out there,” said Rowe, who played 17 snaps versus Kansas City. “It just sucks to be on the sideline or watching the game from home and not really contributing.”

When Rowe exited on the second drive against Jacksonville, he was the team’s unquestioned No. 2 cornerback. That role has since been occupied by veteran Jason McCourty, a standout performer in wins over the Dolphins and Colts.

“You’ve just got to work your way back in there,” Rowe said. “Guys are playing well. That’s good for the team. I’m not sitting here like, ‘I wish they played bad.’ But it’s tough. Last week was my first week back, so coaches and even I wanted to know how I’m going to feel day after day.”

Rowe placed a greater emphasis on his flexibility this offseason to avoid another long-term injury.

“I tried to do all preventative stuff and it just kind of happened,” Rowe said. “And the way I play, I’m just long. I reach. It’s just how I run, how my body type is. So I guess stuff like that, it’ll just happen.”

The Pats used Rowe as a fourth cornerback against the Chiefs, as they frequently went to a dime package. His role going forward remains to be seen.