|‘Now or never’ Brandon Spikes picks a real good time to come of age||01.23.12 at 10:31 am ET|
FOXBORO — He was the forgotten man in the Patriots defense for half of the season.
Either because he was having trouble earning playing time or staying healthy, Brandon Spikes was the great talent out of the University of Florida who couldn’t get on the field for the Patriots after having a big impact at middle linebacker in his rookie season of 2010.
But against the Broncos he began to emerge as a force. On Sunday he broke out and made one of the key plays that propelled the Patriots to Super Bowl XLVI against the Giants on Feb. 5.
With Broncos driving across midfield and into Patriots territory at the 46-yard line, Joe Flacco dropped back and saw tight end Ed Dickson break downfield and flash over the right seam. Spikes as it turns out saw the same thing.
Spikes dropped back with Dickson and read Flacco, stuck out his right hand and hauled in the pass for an interception, killing the Baltimore drive. It would be the first of three defensive stops the Patriots would make on their way to a heart-pounding 23-20 win.
“I’m the responsible for the vertical [pattern] from the tight end and he was going vertical and I just wanted to roll into him, and the ball was right there,” Spikes said. “It was either now or never. I was able to get one hand on it and pull it in. So, it was a big play.”
Vince Wilfork blew through the Ravens offensive line and forced Flacco to throw a desperation heave on fourth-and-6 at the Patriots 33 on the next series. And then, he watched as Sterling Moore knocked the ball out of Lee Evans‘ hands in the end zone with 22 seconds remaining to preserve the lead.
“You know the saying: ‘defense wins championships’ and look what happened,” Spikes said. “Sterling did a great job of doing his technique the way he was being coached and that’s the outcome you get.”
All three defensive stops turned Gillette Stadium into a madhouse, and Spikes – who played in loud environments in Gainesville, Fla. for the Gators – was loving every minute of it.
“Tonight, it was pretty loud,” Spikes said. “I’ve got to give it to them. The fans are always behind us and have been since the beginning of the season and they were still there when we were having our ups and downs. It was loud when we needed them and we definitely used that to our advantage.”
Now Spikes and the Patriots have two weeks to get ready for their biggest challenge of the season, Eli Manning, Mario Manningham and the Giants offense in the Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
“Throughout the week, I made sure I did everything I could to be ready for this game,” Spikes said. “It just goes to show your hard work pays off, put in the time, you’re going to get a good outcome. So, to any kid out there, just work hard. The sky’s the limit.”
Now, the same can truly be said of Brandon Spikes.
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