Chandler Jones and Brandon Spikes both had excellent games for the New England Patriots in their 20-18 loss against the Arizona Cardinals, but it is difficult to give a game ball performance to a player on the losing team. Despite the weirdness associate with such an act, this game ball is solely for a player on the Patriots. I feel that the defense played well enough to deserve having one of their standouts getting Musket Fire’s weekly award.
I decided to give the award to Brandon Spikes, despite the work that Jones put in as a pass rusher and against the run yesterday. I feel like Spikes had the more difficult match-up in this game, because Jones was supposed to go off and have a huge day against left tackle De’Anthony Batiste, who is clearly not a starter in this league and was only afforded the opportunity due to the injury to Levi Brown.
Anyway, Spikes barely wins this award on that tiebreaker, and he filled up the stats sheet with seven tackles, two quarterback hits, and a tackle for loss. He helped hold Beanie Wells to 3.1 yards per carry and did an excellent job of getting to Kevin Kolb on a couple of occasions to knock him down.
Spikes had a tougher task ahead of him against an Arizona Cardinals interior that features two top run blockers in the underrated Lyle Sendlein and the mauling Daryn Colledge, who is one of the best run blocking guards in the NFL. Spikes stood tall against the challenge, and his forced fumble on Ryan Williams very nearly gave the Patriots a victory at the end; it’s just that Stephen Gostkowski was unable to hit his fifth field goal on the night.
Devin McCourty also deserves some praise for doing an excellent job of being physical against Larry Fitzgerald, and his coverage was vital in holding one of the NFL’s best receivers to just one catch. That reception went for just four yards, which is a testament to McCourty’s improved play from last season, the defensive scheming done by the Pats, and the job other players did in bracketing Fitzgerald and shutting him down.
All the good that was done on defense is extremely encouraging for the Patriots going forward, especially with a game against the Baltimore Ravens up ahead in Week 3. The fact that the Patriots lost despite the play of Spikes, Jones, McCourty, and the entire defense further magnifies all the missed chances and mistakes for the team on special teams and on offense. Even though the end result may be bad, there is certainly a lot of good to take with it.
As always, don’t overreact. Why? Because it is what it is.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.