FOXBOROUGH — It wasn’t the first time the Bills had been displeased with Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes. In the first game this season between New England and Buffalo, Spikes laid a hard hit on tight end Scott Chandler, a hit that was still fresh in their minds when Spikes smashed into quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the fourth quarter on Sunday.
The hit drew a roughing-the-passer penalty, and an expletive from Fitzpatrick toward Spikes. It drew an equally strong reaction after the game.
“We’re not going to back down from anybody. Spikes is an emotional player,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think he’s a punk at times. He took a cheap shot at Scott in the first game, and he was doing a lot of jabbering and talking and getting out there.
“Not one of my favorite players. Not high on my list.”
Fitzpatrick wasn’t the only Bill to have a strong reaction.
Center Eric Wood called Spikes a “headhunter,” and added, “I guess he was trying to take Fitz out of the game.”
The play in question came on second and 4 in the fourth quarter. The hit knocked Fitzpatrick’s helmet off, though the quarterback did not appear to suffer any ill effects.
Fitzpatrick stood up after the play and walked toward Spikes. An official got between the two with his arms outstretched.
Spikes was assessed a $21,000 fine for the illegal block on Chandler in the first meeting.
That wasn’t the only hard hit Spikes delivered on Sunday. He forced a fumble by Fred Jackson, also in the fourth quarter, which the Bills recovered. Jackson was injured on the play.
Running back Danny Woodhead had the first two-touchdown game of his career, scoring on a 15-yard run in the second quarter — his only carry of the game — and an 18-yard pass from Tom Brady in the third quarter.
A pretty good day?
“It was a pretty good day because we got the W. That’s really the only thing that matters,” said Woodhead, who has four touchdowns this season. “Two touchdowns, whatever, that’s not the most concern. It’s getting the win, and we got the win. The team comes so far before myself.”
Both of Woodhead’s scores gave the Patriots 14-point leads. He finished with four receptions (he has 18 catches over the last four games) for 46 yards. He even added a little flair, producing a quick shoulder shake after scoring untouched on the run.
“I don’t know where that comes from, maybe [Stevan] Ridley wanted me to do something like that and I didn’t even notice I did it,” Woodhead said.
Cornerback Aqib Talib, acquired Nov. 1 from Tampa Bay, served the last game of a league-mandated four-game suspension, and will be eligible to play Sunday against the Colts. The acquisition may have raised a few eyebrows, only because Talib’s reputation — multiple run-ins with the law, suspensions — is far from sparkling.
Team president Jonathan Kraft, appearing on 98.5 The Sports Hub before the game, was asked about the team’s newest addition to the secondary.
“The football side of the operation here, as everybody knows, is [coach Bill Belichick’s] area of responsibility, and I think he’s earned the right to have a fair amount of autonomy in making decisions like [Talib] and others, where the organization isn’t risking huge amounts of our assets, meaning our money over the long term or high draft picks, to bring somebody in who he believes can help the football team,” Kraft said. “If that person, when they’re here, violates a code of standards about how you’re supposed to carry yourself when you’re a New England Patriot, he won’t be here for very long.
“I think it’s safe to assume that he’ll understand what’s expected when you walk in this locker room. He won’t just hear it from Bill and from us, but I think veteran players will tell him what it means to be a Patriot.”
As expected, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe was active for the game, making his Patriots debut one day after coming off injured reserve. Shiancoe, signed July 25 after four seasons with the Giants and five with the Vikings, was placed on IR Sept. 5, but designated under a new category that allowed him to return.
Shiancoe’s availability took on a more urgent tone when it became official that Aaron Hernandez would miss another game with a lingering ankle injury. Hernandez, injured in the home opener Sept. 16, has had a slow, inconsistent recovery. He sat three games, returned for two, and now has been inactive for two, despite practicing.
Shiancoe played sparingly on Sunday, and did not have a pass thrown his way.
“Great to be back,” Shiancoe said. “Just to get my feet wet a little bit. Thank God.”
Mankins, Connolly exit
Left guard Logan Mankins was back in the lineup after missing two games because of calf and hip injuries, but left in the third quarter with an ankle injury after being rolled into on two plays. Right guard Dan Connolly left with a back injury after he was hit from behind during a second-quarter screen pass. Connolly finished the drive, which ended with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski, but then left and did not return.
Mankins, who left the locker room in a walking boot, and Connolly were replaced by Nick McDonald and Donald Thomas.
“I’m just doing my job,” McDonald said. “Guy gets hurt, number’s called, I’ve got to go in and play the best I can.”
Safety Steve Gregory returned for the first time since the first Buffalo game after missing four games with a hip injury. He was credited with five tackles.
Patrick Chung missed his third straight game with a shoulder injury. With Chung out, Devin McCourty earned his third consecutive start at safety, forced a fumble, then intercepted a pass in the end zone at the end of the game. Like Gregory, Chung practiced all week in a limited capacity.
The other Patriot inactives were linebacker Tracy White, defensive back Malcolm Williams, and defensive linemen Jake Bequette, Ron Brace, and Trevor Scott.
Among the Bills’ inactives was defensive end Mark Anderson, who had 10 sacks with the Patriots last season.
Kevin Faulk, who announced his retirement earlier this season after spending 13 years with the Patriots, was recognized by the team at halftime . . . In honor of Veterans Day, the cushioned base of each goalpost was wrapped in camouflage, the words “Salute to Service” were painted along the back of the end zones, and a flyover from the 439th Airlift Wing in Westover took place near the end of the national anthem, which was sung by the 215th Army Band’s Voices of Freedom. A black seat in the south end of the stadium, which will be permanently unoccupied, was also dedicated . . . It marked the 22d time the Patriots have swept the season series from the Bills. They’ve scored at least 30 points against Buffalo in six straight games . . . Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui got the start, then came out for the second offensive play in favor of Deion Branch. Hoomanawanui was targeted just once, and did not have a completion. Branch finished with four catches for 30 yards . . . Wes Welker’s 7-yard catch on the first drive extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one reception to 103, which predates his time with the Patriots. He also had two drops, but Brady had Welker’s back, saying, “I’m always going to go to him. He’s one of the best to ever play. He has the mental toughness to fight though it. He’ll be fine.” . . . Stephen Gostkowski had an excellent game, making all three of his field goal attempts (43, 48, 27 yards), and preventing the Bills from many kickoff returns. Six of Gostkowski’s eight kickoffs were touchbacks. The other two were returned just 21 and 13 yards.