The Pit of (Brandon) Spikes

Al Bello - Getty Images

Brandon Spikes' game-breaking plays and bone-crushing hits have become the calling card of the Patriots defense.

Spikes are always a good thing. They can add a little "personality" to a high school reunion's communal punch bowl, increase grip when walking any scraggy surface, impale your opponent rather (in)famously in a popular video game franchise, and in the case of Rob Gronkowski, permanently dent the field of play in celebration of a hard-earned six points.

After being considered by many to be a few steps too slow to be an elite defender at the professional level, Brandon Spikes is becoming synonymous with success in the improving Patriot defense. The polar opposite and perhaps less technically proficient than the more stoic linebacker Jerod Mayo, Spikes' intense, instinctual and hard-hitting style of play is contagious, where a ferocious hit and subsequent fumble leads to Vince Wilfork decleating one Donald Jones several plays later. In an offensive gameplan determined to display balance, maybe it makes sense that the defense should too, where restraint and calm occasionally give way to the savage, emotional nature inherent in a sport that features the world's strongest athletes colliding at full speed.

A perfect parallel for head coach Bill Belichick, who is criticized as being dull and detached in press conferences, but is lauded by players and personnel alike as being lively and passionate on the football field. "You should be excited when you make a play," Belichick once told his team when featured on the NFL Network's "A Football Life." "Hell, look at all the work you put into it, all the time you spent in practice. You should be excited about it, and your teammates should be excited, too." Spikes' tide-changing plays are usually accompanied by an almost maniacal dance while he jumps around uncontrollably like a man possessed in his trademark black visor, igniting the fires of those around him.

While we can certainly point to a more consistent offense as to why the Patriots showed 52 signs of life against the Bills on Sunday, the contribitions from Spikes cannot be commended enough. After an abysmal second quarter, the Patriots were reeling and were looking at minimum a two-score hole entering halftime. The Bills were driving, and the Patriots yielding a field goal would have been considered a success. Spikes delivered a jarring hit to running back C.J. Spiller close to the goal line, causing a fumble and preventing any further damage as the clock winded down. The Bills failed to deliver a crucial knockout blow on their disheartened division rival, or maybe it was Spikes who delivered one of his own.

Even the Patriots de facto emotional leader in Tom Brady took notice of Spikes' tremendous plays in the early part of the season. “Brandon brings that physical element. To knock the ball off (C.J.) Spiller like he did was awesome. And that play he made against Arizona where he knocked the fumble off of (Ryan Williams) was one of the best plays I’ve ever seen anyone make."

Ever seen anyone make? That's lofty praise, even for players that find themselves almost obligated to pile the compliments on their own teammates. For a team that was criticized for perhaps placing too much responsibility on the shoulders of Tom Brady in seasons past—to lead the team to victory by performance and by example—perhaps the time for another to step up on the other side of the ball is long overdue. Now, some of that responsibility surely rests on the jagged skillset of Brandon Spikes, whose increasingly fearsome reputation would make even the sharpest points tremble.

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