FOXBOROUGH — There are certainly times when you can question Brandon Spikes’s judgment when it comes to his Twitter posts, but it is almost impossible to question his passion for football.
The Patriots’ run-stopping linebacker, who doesn’t chat with media very often, did talk on Tuesday, swarmed by reporters and cameras wanting to document the excitable Spikes’s answers.
Spikes has gotten to participate in the playoffs in each of his first three NFL seasons, and he relishes the chance to do so again in Sunday’s divisional round game against Houston.
“Oh, man, postseason is what it’s about — either go hard or go home,” he said. “It’s that simple. So I’m definitely looking forward to this. It’s everything we’ve built on in terms of physicality and they’re coming out trying to run the ball and we want to establish the dominance early.”
When Spikes’s interview began, one teammate started yelling that he wanted a shout-out and another started yelling funny lines as well.
But Jerod Mayo took things a step further, standing on a stool behind some cameras and waving his arms trying to distract Spikes, then moving into Spikes’s peripheral vision, still trying to distract his teammate.
Spikes kept answering the questions directed at him, trying to suppress his laughter.
Mayo eventually stopped, noting that he hadn’t rattled Spikes.
“He’s focused,” quipped Mayo. “We need that.”
Spikes’s health this season was a key for New England, as there was little linebacker depth, and the trio of him, Mayo, and first-round pick Dont’a Hightower had a great deal of promise.
After playing in 20 games over his first two seasons, Spikes was in uniform for 15 of 16 this year, held out of the Jacksonville game because of knee and ankle injuries he fought through for much of the season.
On more than one occasion, he was a game-time decision.
In the finale against Miami, he was rested again, playing just eight snaps.
Spikes said he is doing better but also indicated that he’s still hurting.
“I feel great. I’ve been feeling great,” he said. “But it’s postseason, it’s been a long year, and nobody’s healthy, nobody is 100 percent. I just have to deal with it and try to get better every day.”
Despite his injuries, Spikes totaled 128 tackles (84 solo). He added five forced fumbles, seven pass breakups, and his first career sack.
In part because of Spikes, New England finished with the ninth-best rushing defense in the NFL, averaging 101.9 yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry.
He will be an important part of the defense Sunday against running back Arian Foster, who picked up 140 yards on 32 carries in the Texans’ wild-card win over Cincinnati. In his first three career playoff games, Foster has posted 425 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
“He’s an all-around player,” Spikes said. “He’s one of the emotional guys for them. He obviously gets the offense going and that team going.
“He’s definitely a big target for us, and as far as the linebackers and whole front seven, we want to come out and contain him, definitely.”
In the Patriots’ December win over Houston, the defense did a very good job against Foster, holding him to 46 yards on 15 carries, and he was essentially taken out of the game when New England raced to a big early lead.
Houston’s offense relies heavily on the ground game, but Spikes wouldn’t bite when asked if taking away the run limits what the Texans can do.
“I feel like everybody has a job, and my job is to pay attention to the run,” he said. “So whatever it is, we should be prepared defensively all the way around the board.”
Spikes, who has a fondness for talking trash on the field — Rob Ninkovich has said he can always hear Spikes jawing behind him and often finds himself laughing at the things that come out — still has an awful feeling in his stomach over how last season ended, with a loss in the Super Bowl.
“Why do you have to bring that up man?” he said. “I’m trying to forget about that!
“Of course, everybody feels like we came up short, but that’s part of the game. That’s part of football. We just have to come and do whatever we can [to not] let that happen again.
“We have an opportunity to get back there, but we’ve just got to take it one game at a time. The test is in front of us: We’re healthy, we’re feeling good, we’re ready, we’re preparing well, and we just have to go out and get it done.”Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.