FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes says a man is measured by how he responds to adversity, how he picks himself up after he's been knocked down.
And, boy, did Spikes gets knocked down Sunday. Early in the fourth quarter, the Patriots second-year middle linebacker was looking to make a play on a handoff to Baltimore running back Ray Rice and got absolutely trucked by fullback Vonta Leach. Unfazed, Spikes picked himself off the ground and, on the very next play, made a spectacular one-handed interception, picking off a pass down the middle of the field from Joe Flacco at the Patriots 31.
“I just took my normal reads," said Spikes. "I was responsible for the tight end going vertical and I turned into the play and the ball was right there. I just wanted to make a play and I was able to. I was fortunate to hold on to it, it was a tough catch...
"It’s just great. As a man, you’re measured when you get knocked down, how you respond after you get knocked down. On that pick -- actually the play before -- Leach had done a great job -- my respect to him, he knocked me on my butt. And the next play, I was able to make the play on the ball. It just felt great. You just gotta respond when you get knocked down on the ground."
Spikes, who first battled his way back from injury during the preseason, then was limited to eight regular-season appearances (six starts), has gotten back up each time ailments have knocked him down. He registered a team-high nine tackles Sunday, aiding a run defense that held Rice in check (especially considering his exploits during the 2009 Wild Card game here at Gillette Stadium).
But it was his interception that had teammates talking after the game. When he made the pick during the game, half the bench spilled off the sideline to congratulate him after his runback.
"On the sideline, we kept saying that we’ve got to step up and make a play," said cornerback Devin McCourty. "Spikes is a very emotional, passionate guy, so whenever he makes a play, everyone goes crazy. That’s just what he brings to the defense and what he brings to the team.”
Despite that energy, the idea of playing in the Super Bowl is a bit humbling to Spikes.
“I dreamed of this [AFC title] game a few days ago and I had this experience," said Spikes. "I thought the SEC Championship was big, but this is amazing. I just want to take it all in while I can and get ready for whoever we have to face in two weeks.
“Really, right now I’m speechless. I just want to enjoy the moment. My teammates fought the whole game for 60 minutes. We fell down but we got back up, and that is what makes it so good.”