Brandon Spikes had an important an individual effort against the Buffalo Bills as any player on the Patriots defense. Two of his thunderous hits caused Bills ball carriers to fumble, giving the ball – and the momentum – back to New England in a come-from-behind 52-28 victory last Sunday.
Thursday, Spikes spoke to reporters about his aggressive, enthusiastic style of play, which often manifests itself with histrionic celebrations on the field after he or one of his teammates makes a big play.
Spikes' brand of play can be infectious, as we saw in Orchard Park against the Bills, where the Patriots came up with six turnovers, three sacks of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, and a number of bone-crushing hits.
"On the sideline I'm always preaching, 'Somebody make a play. Don't sit back and wait for the next one. Just do it,'" Spikes explained. "Once one guys makes a play, it goes through the whole defense. You feel the energy, you see it.
"If we can get going a little earlier," he declared, "I think we have a chance to be a decent defense."
They certainly seem to be an improved one over last year's unit, which ranked near the bottom in nearly every category. But big plays – and big hits, like Spikes' in Buffalo – are becoming more common with the 2012 iteration of New England's defense.
It is Spikes' hope that these types of legal, yet lethal hits can intimidate opponents, as it appears happened to the Bills in the second half of last week's contest.
"Absolutely," continued Spikes. "A lot of guys, they know the new rules. I don't think I've done anything illegal. I've tried to keep it legal, but I just want to kind of try to make a point -- when I hit a guy, I want him [to say], 'Oh, that was Spikes that hit me. I know that already.'
"It's a mind thing with me. I'm constantly talking [trash], but at the same time, I'm watching every move you make: from how you react, your eyes, anywhere I can try to get an edge, I use it."
Asked where he developed this in-your-face style, Spikes couldn't pinpoint a single event, saying that's how he was taught and that he knows no other way to play. He also made a general reference to great linebackers of previous generations.
"They were really aggressive and big. I feel like I try to mold my game like that. You don't see that too much from linebackers. I just want to bring that to the game… My thing is, when I'm done with this, I want the older guys when they watch to say, 'He's playing the position the right way.' It's just a point of respect for me."
Spikes' exuberance can sometimes get the better of him, though he insists he tries to keep his emotions under control on the field. It's clear that his defensive teammates are feeding off that energy.
"He's not crazy, he's a hell of a football player. He loves contact. I love guys like that," stated defensive tackle/co-captain Vince Wilfork. "When you have a guy like that… the way we try to play defense, you need someone like that. He gets us riled up off of hits, off of things he says, the way he's bringing the game to him. He doesn't let the game slip away. He wants all the contact, almost like he's a lineman. That's a positive for us… In this game, you have to be able to take blows and give blows. I think he gives more than he takes. That's a good thing."
"It's just something that comes natural. I always have been like that, ever since I was little I played with a lot of emotion," Spikes added. "I just love the game, as you can see. You can tell I'm having fun playing. It's just a part of me… it just comes out."
He also understands that he still has room for improvement, particularly in pass coverage.
Case in point, one of Bills tight end Scott Chandler's touchdown catches last weekend. Spikes was responsible for him on that play, but allowed Chandler to run by him virtually untouched while Spikes looked confused as to whether to drop back and give chase or stay close to the line of scrimmage. Too late, he chose to follow Chandler, who by that time was wide open for an easy touchdown catch.
"I still have a lot of work to do. I feel like, as far as my performance, I've been inconsistent. So if I can start to do all the little things and getting better every week, I feel like I could have a great season.
"I feel like there's more to me. I feel I can be a lot better on the field. This is only the beginning, in my eyes. Hopefully, I can play at a high level every Sunday."
For details about today's Patriots practice and more locker room tidbits, please visit the PFW blog.