Patriots

Spikes gives Patriots 'D' some venom

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Spikes gives Patriots 'D' some venom

Just a cursory look online at the New England Patriots defensive stats tells the ugly story of a unit that struggles to stop teams in the pass-happy NFL. Week in and week out this teams defense is a source of concern and angst for its coaching staff and its fans. Its maybe one of the last units in the league that would instill any form of fear in an opposing offense.

Fortunately for the Patriots and their fans, Brandon Spikes reign of terror transcends statistics.

Now playing in his third campaign for the Pats, Brandon Spikes has emerged as one of the hardest hitters in an NFL that is currently doing its best to be anything but a contact sport. The results are twofold. Spikes ability to make a play with big hits has made The Sandman an instant favorite with Pats fans that are desperate for any reason to cheer for the defense. And Spikes role as the Patriots resident on field anesthesiologist has made him a lightning rod for yellow flags and whiny criticism in this kinder, gentler, lamer NFL.

Last Sundays game against the Bills was no different as Spikes forced a fumble after he baptized Buffalos Fred Jackson, ending his day with another spectacularly vicious hit. Spikes was also assessed a roughing the passer personal foul on a sack that used to be the price of doing business at the QB position in the NFL.

This was the second time this season that Spikes has single-handedly terrorized the Bills and you could tell his play is leaving its mark on both a physical and emotional level.

Even before the ball was snapped Sunday, the presence of Brandon Spikes was felt. A tweet from the wife of Bills Tight End Scott Chandler featured his child warning Spikes to Not even look at her Daddy, obviously a response to Spikes turning Papa Chandler into a Benny Hill dummy on a brutal blindside block during an interception runback. Brandon Spikes was subsequently fined 21,000 for not playing nice by Roger Goodells NFL. Considering how Chandler was absolutely smoking the Patriots secondary that game, Id say it was a good investment.

After the game was over, you didnt have to search Twitter for Buffalo outrage as Spikes once again pillaged the Bills offense like a rampaging tribe of Visigoths. It was all over the post-game coverage. Harvard graduate Ryan Fitzpatrick wasnt content with getting a borderline penalty that clearly bailed him out of an intentional grounding call. After ending the games final drive with an interception worthy of Buffalos tradition of choking, Fitzpatrick moaned to the press about Spikes once again violently demoralizing his team.

I think Spikes is an emotional player, Fitzpatrick said. I think hes a punk at times and took a cheap shot at Scott (Chandler) in the first game and was doing a lot of talking and hitting out there. Hes not one of my favorite players, not high on my list.

Sorry Ryan, a Punk runs his mouth and then avoids confrontation. If they ever play hockey again, take in a Sabres game and watch Patrick Kaletta or Steve Ott for the proper definition. Brandon Spikes doesnt avoid confrontation; he embraces it and then celebrates among the debris. If you want to run to Roger Goodell because Spikes put you teammate to sleep and then read your buddies a bedtime story, go ahead. But then which one of you becomes the Punk?

Bills running back Tashard Choice also commented on Spikes, particularly his flexing on the sideline after KOing Jackson. Choice said that Spikes would get his. Considering the Patriots arent playing the Bills again this year and since Spikes wont be in the CFL next season, he shouldnt worry about Choices comments too much.

Honestly, I dont have a problem with the Bills making these comments so much as I have the problem with these comments getting any serious consideration from the media. But thats the sad state of todays NFL.

Where was this outrage when Ray Lewis hurt Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall and taunted him and his teammates in 2008? After the play, I wasn't screaming 'he's hurt.' I was screaming 'he's done,'" repeated the iconic Raven to Sports Illustrated after he delivered the hit that ended Mendenhalls rookie campaign. Was the block on Chandler cheaper than the highlight reel hit that Steelers wide out Hines Ward delivered to the Bengals Keith Rivers with the crown of his helmet, sending him flying and breaking his jaw?

This isnt Brandon Meriweather doling out worthless cheap shots while doing nothing to improve the defense. This is a player conducting himself largely within the confines of an increasingly wussified sport producing game-changing carnage. Im sure with todays safety at all costs mentality regarding the NFL, my opinion on Spikes will be reviled as prehistoric and crude. Quite frankly, I really dont care.

Luckily for Patriots fans, Spikes doesnt care either. The only man to fear on the Patriots defense will simply play his punishing brand of football and let the chips, as well as the bodies, fall where they may.

Backes and Bergeron return to Bruins practice, may be back in action soon

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Backes and Bergeron return to Bruins practice, may be back in action soon

BRIGHTON -- It was good news when word first filtered out that David Backes had resumed skating last weekend while the Bruins were on the West Coast, and even better news Tuesday when he returned to practice. Backes skated without any restrictions in a spot on the third line with Riley Nash and Tim Schaller, and appeared to be recovering nicely from his bout of diverticulitis.

Backes was initially diagnosed with the inflammatory colon ailment in the first few days of October, with the team estimating a three- to four-week recovery period. If he'd needed surgery rather than the  prescribed rest and medication, he could have been facing a lot more missed games.

Patrice Bergeron was also back skating on Tuesday morning while centering Brad Marchand and Anders Bjork, still sporting a maroon no-contact jersey while taking some light contact during the practice session.

Backes and Bergeron look like they’ could be returning to the lineup soon.

But the injury news wasn't all good, as Ryan Spooner, Austin Czarnik, Danton Heinen and Adam McQuaid were all missing from practice.

Spooner (lower body) and McQuaid (lower body) were both injured in Sunday night’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, and Czarnik and/or Heinen might be ticketed back to Providence soon if the Bruins have to make roster space for Bergeron and/or Backes ahead of Thursday night’s home game against the Vancouver Canucks.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings from Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena with a whole different look to things with some of the different bodies taking part in the skate:

Marchand-Bergeron-Bjork
DeBrusk-Krejci-Pasta
Schaller-Nash-Backes
Beleskey-Kuraly-Vatrano
White

Chara-Carlo
Miller-McAvoy
Krug-Postma

Rask
Khudobin