|Brandon Spikes: ‘I’ve been inconsistent’||10.04.12 at 1:12 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The numbers say Brandon Spikes is finally reaching his potential.
The third-year run-stopping linebacker out of Florida is second on the Patriots with 30 tackles through four games. Only Jerod Mayo (46) has more.
He forced two fumbles on Sunday in the 52-28 win over the Bills and set the tempo on the sideline with ferocious hits that turned the momentum in the game.
“It was a just form tackling,” Spikes said Thursday of his fourth-quarter hit on Fred Jackson in Sunday’s win. “I was taught to hit the ball and separate it from the man so that’s what I was able to do. It went well that game.”
He also leveled big tight end Scott Chandler at the end of Devin McCourty‘s second interception of the game.
“It’s something that comes natural. I always have been like that, ever since I was little,” Spikes said. “I played with a lot of emotion and 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’s just comes with playing beside me.
“I’ve been playing that way. Honestly, you guys just noticed but I feel like I’ve been playing like that ever since I stepped on the field. It’s just emotion. It just comes out.”
Regarded as one of the most physical athletes on the team, Spikes is showing just how valuable he is to the defense.
“I definitely have to stay agile,” Spikes said. “I play basketball so that helps me out. I still have a lot of work to do. I feel like right now, as far as my performance, I’ve been inconsistent. So, if I could start doing all the little things and getting better each week, I feel like I’ll have a great season.”
Spikes, who had 11 tackles in the Super Bowl last February, feels there are areas he can improve. One such example came in the first half Sunday when he lined up in the slot to cover Chandler. Chandler shook him off and beat him to the middle of the field. He stopped his coverage on the play, leaving the defensive backs to pick him up. The secondary didn’t get to Chandler in time and the result was a 20-yard touchdown for the Bills.
“Pass coverage, just everything. Just ups and downs,” Spikes said. “I might have a brain fart here and there. It’s the league, I’m trying to get that out of the way.”
|Patrick Peterson on Stephen Gostkowski: ‘I think he was a little scared of us’||09.16.12 at 7:06 pm ET|
FOXBORO — After making his first four field goal attempts on the day, including two from beyond 50 yards, Stephen Gostkowski shouldered the blame after missing a 42-yard field goal wide left with one second remaining that allowed the Cardinals to escape with a 20-18 win over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
“I’m not scared to fail,” Gostkowski said. “It stinks when you do. But I wouldn’t go out there every day if I was scared to screw up. I’ll feel bad about this for a couple of days and I’m sure I’ll get ripped for it by the fans, and it’s well-deserved. My teammates have my back. No one feels worse about missing a kick than I do. You’ve just got to move on and get over it. It’s the good ones that get over bad games it lasts a while. If I let this affect me negatively, I’m not doing my job.”
But Gostkowski’s teammates indeed had his back moments after the fateful kick sailed wide left.
“Stephen is a great kicker, I think everyone here in this half circle knows that, I think everyone in the league knows that,” said Danny Woodhead, whose 30-yard touchdown run was called by on Rob Gronkowski‘s holding call, which forced the Patriots to settle for the field goal attempt.
“Stephen does a great job, he kicked four great field goals to keep us in the game,” Gronkowski said. “The loss is not on him. The loss could be on me. I got that penalty at the end.
“He’s our kicker, we stand behind him,” said Jerod Mayo. “We’ve seen him hit that a million times.”
Arizona’s Pro Bowl return man and corner back Patrick Peterson had a different view.
“I think he was a little scared of us, honestly,” said Peterson, who was on the field attempting to block the kick. “That is why he pushed it left. We put a lot of pressure on a lot of field goal teams.”
Gostkowski said he felt confident going into the potential game-winning kick, a chance presented to the Patriots when Brandon Spikes forced a fumble by Cardinals fullback Ryan Williams with 61 seconds remaining.
“I felt good going out there,” Gostkowski said. “It wasn’t the smoothest hit and I looked up and I saw it was left. Sometimes, the ball doesn’t fly your way. There’s probably not another game I’d be more confident going out for a kick like that. It humbles you really quick.
“Each kick is different and of course, you can develop a good rhythm and get in a zone and it’s really unfortunate that I couldn’t come through at the end. I had a chance to make a big impact on the game and it turned south.”
|The Hot List: Best opening acts by Patriots rookies||09.12.12 at 12:42 am ET|
The performance of rookies Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower and Tavon Wilson in the season-opener against the Titans on Sunday got us to thinking: What were some of the best performances by Patriots first-year players in openers? And so this edition of “The Hot List” looks at the five best debuts by New England rookies.
It’s measured solely on first impressions a rookie makes in his initial game as a professional. (It has to be with the Patriots.) As a result, some of the most impressive members of the franchise, like Tom Brady (who technically became a star in his second season) and Wes Welker (who broke into the league with the Chargers and Dolphins before signing with the Patriots) are ineligible. With that understood — and with some help from our friends on Twitter — here’s a look at New England’s five favorite rookie debuts:
5. Defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont’a Hightower: Sept. 9, 2012, vs. Titans – The two rookies provided the oomph for a New England defense that carried the day in a 34-13 win over the Titans. Jones had five tackles (three solo) and a strip sack of Titans quarterback Jake Locker in the first half, his first as a pro. Hightower, who added five tackles (four solo) of his own, was the beneficiary of Jones’ forced fumble, coming away with the ball and rumbling into the end zone from six yards out for his first touchdown as a pro. (Defensive back Tavon Wilson also gets some credit for his work — he picked off one Locker pass in the end zone, and added a pair of passes defensed in the win.)
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|Vince Wilfork: Pats D has to ‘hit the ground running’||09.06.12 at 7:39 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The man who has seen more on the Patriots defense than anyone else knows the potential of this group.
Vince Wilfork sees two first-round picks added in April’s draft. He watched as Bill Belichick used his first six picks on defense. He’s seen the Patriots draft defense in 12 of their last 20 picks going back to 2010.
Now, with names like Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower added to Brandon Spikes, Ras-I Dowling, Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo, Kyle Love and Patrick Chung, Wilfork knows it’s time for the Patriots D to step up. And stepping up begins Sunday in Nashville against the Titans.
But at 30 years of age, Wilfork stands with Tom Brady as the only Patriots that have Super Bowl rings in their jewelry collection. Wilfork said Thursday he’s not feeling his age heading into the opener – and that’s a good thing.
“I don’t feel it,” said Wilfork, who turns 31 on Nov. 4. “That’s something I never look at. Every year I know it’s a year under your belt. But when I’m playing I don’t feel like I’m 30 or nine years in. I’m like everyone else; I come to work, work hard, and expect the same out of my teammates. As long as you keep that mind frame, you can play as long as you want to play.
“It’s very excited to get going. We’re on the road and it’s going to be a tough game for us. But we can’t look back now. We have to hit the ground running and I’m looking forward to it.”
Obviously, the biggest challenge will be containing the refreshed and rejuvenated Chris Johnson, a one-time perennial Pro Bowl running back with explosive power and speed.
“You have to have the passion for it. I love it, and I love playing with my teammates; love playing for this organization,” he said. “Whatever I can do to make this team better, that’s what I’m going to do.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Brandon Spikes on his approach: ‘Be a shark, it’s Shark Week, you know’||08.14.12 at 8:00 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The middle of the Patriots defense was quiet last week without its most vocal and physical influence.
Brandon Spikes has returned with a vengeance this week after missing four practices and the preseason opener at Gillette against the Saints. He has been making deflections, picking off passes, calling out signals with Jerod Mayo and sniffing out running plays.
The Patriots got a glimpse of just how big a presence he could be in 2011. After 47 tackles in eight regular season games, Spikes took it to a new level in the postseason, registering 26 tackles and a sack in three playoff games, including an 11-tackle performance in Super Bowl XLVI.
He had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and last week may have just been precautionary management to make sure he maintains his aggressive style, a style he said Tuesday will continue this week and this season.
Will his comfort level in Bill Belichick‘s defense mean he’s ready to take his aggressiveness on the ball to a new level?
“Absolutely. That’s my nature. Be aggressive, be a shark – it’s shark week so you know, of course [laughs],” he said.
If Spikes can stay on the field, it will open up Mayo to be more of a roving linebacker, allowing him to cover backs and tight ends out of the backfield and call signals.
“I think we’re doing a great job,” Spikes said Tuesday of the communication going on right now. “A lot of young guys are coming in, making plays; they’re high energy guys, flying around [and] that’s great. They’re catching on to the defense and it’s good, we can just build from there. So I think we’re having a good camp defensively.
“I feel like over time and over the years, I feel like I’m getting better; learning the differences of the defense, where I’m supposed to be and where the next guy is. Being the middle linebacker I’ve got to kind of direct guys and it’s coming a lot easier this year, so hopefully I can just keep getting better.
|Jerod Mayo on M&M: Communication, conditioning key for Patriots||06.15.12 at 2:07 pm ET|
Appearing on Mut & Merloni on Friday afternoon, Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo discussed his leadership role, good conditioning and some other keys to minicamp. To hear the interview, visit the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Mayo, at 26 years of age, is one of the defense’s veterans and is charged with helping new additions Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones.
“Those guys are coming out ready to work [and] that’s all you can ask,” Mayo said. “Those guys come out and work hard, both in the classroom and on the field. Being one of the older guys I just try to lead by example. We have great coaches they can learn from and [they've] got to work hard.”
The rookies aren’t the only players working hard this offseason as the Patriots, coming off a Super Bowl loss, are striving for improvement.
“The goal is to get better, obviously,” Mayo said. “We have a lot of talent on our team, but at the same time we have a lot of new faces, so communication is huge. Going out there and competing each and every play is huge. It’s just getting used to the coaches and things like that, especially for these young guys. That’s a big part of the offseason.”
Added Mayo: ”It was difficult at first but that comes back to communication — knowing who you’re on the field with and things like that. I think it was good for us.”
The Patriots don’t stop working to reach their goal, even if coach Bill Belichick hands the team a rare day off as he did on Thursday.
“We still did some work,” Mayo said. “I don’t think it was a total day off. We got some things done. I think he knows everyone’s been working hard, so guys are going to continue to work hard. It wasn’t a full day off, but it was a pleasant surprise.”
Mayo’s personal goal is to be in tip-top shape at the start of training camp.
“This is a time where you get the edge on everyone else,” Mayo said. “You’re going to have some guys who go home and just eat their way out of the league, and you have those guys who go out there and grind and work hard. Just get ready for training camp, that’s the goal.”
|Jerod Mayo’s Q&A with the media from Thursday at Gillette Stadium||06.07.12 at 2:57 pm ET|
Here’s the complete Q&A from linebacker Jerod Mayo’s session with the media today at Gillette Stadium:
How are things going with all the new guys? “Everyone is coming out here and working hard. That’s all you can ask for during this time of the season.”
There was a lot of barking on the sidelines about concentration. Is it different at this time of year compared to when you guys get going in the fall as far as that’s concerned? “We try to practice just as hard now without pads as we do with pads. Even though we’re not actually hitting each other, we’re out there going hard. We’re out there being safe but at the same time trying to get those looks and making sure everyone is on the same page, especially when people get tired.”
What is the attitude of the defense heading into the new season? You guys took a lot of heat in the media last year – what’s the attitude now? “Just take it one day at a time; get better each and every day and that’s what we’re doing.”
Can you talk about some of the new guys coming in? They obviously have a learning curve with the system. Can you talk about how they’re doing? “Yeah, there’s a learning curve but those guys are coming in each and every day, working hard in the classroom and on the field. Hopefully when the season comes, they’ll be ready to go.”
What do you envision for this defense and how it will change for the upcoming year? “I’m not even trying to look that far out. I’m looking to now. I’m looking toward watching this film from today and going out tomorrow and improving on that.”
Is it exciting when you leave the draft and the team has six new guys ready to go? “It’s always exciting when we get guys on our side of the ball. I always love new faces, new talent. It’s like different tools you get to work with and those guys are good players.”
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