With the Cowboys’ high-powered offense coming to Foxborough and Patriots defensive backbone Jerod Mayo out with an MCL injury, many assumed Dallas would have something of a field day Sunday.
It didn’t happen. But why not?
Simple. Like last week against the Jets, the defense stepped up in Mayo’s absence.
Take second-year linebacker Brandon Spikes. The youngster missed a good bit of time in training camp and in the preseason, and was actually thought to be on the outs with the franchise — for reasons unknown.
But, the last two weeks, he’s looked more like the player who started to emerge last season, combining for 14 tackles, 11 of which were solo. He also provided pressure in blitz packages.
“I think Brandon has been improving a little bit every week — increased his practice reps and his playing time and all that,” coach Bill Belichick said. “He’s getting better, and he made some plays for us on the next to last possession defensively.
“When they were trying to run the clock, he blitzed up the middle a couple times and was disruptive, and we were able to get the runner for little or no gain.”
Spikes is just one of many who impressed on Sunday. Andre Carter had two sacks on Tony Romo, while Kyle Arrington had a team-high 11 tackles and his league-leading fourth interception.
Director of player personnel Nick Caserio said Arrington is making the most of situations that allow him to make an interception — but that it’s good team defense that creates the opportunity.
And speaking of opportunities, James Ihedigbo has taken advantage of his, too.
“We’ve had some guys that have been dinged up at that position a little bit,” Caserio said. “He’s smart, tough, a pretty instinctive player, and he has gone in there.”