Monday January 06, 2014 | 04:54 PM

Well, the hits keep coming to the New England Patriots defense.

Linebacker Brandon Spikes, who was second on the team with 134 tackles, was placed on Injured Reserve Monday afternon, meaning his season is done five days before the Patriots play the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC Divisional Round playoff game.

Spikes was considered perhaps the Patriots best run-stopper at the position. His loss may not be felt so much this week, because the Colts will go as far as Andrew Luck's right arm takes them, but it seriously impacts this team's ability to win the Super Bowl.

The Patriots had already lost three of their top front seven defensive players - linemen Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly and linebacker Jerod Mayo  - to season-ending injuries and teams have run the ball much better against New England since they went out. With Spikes gone, it will be more difficult to stop a strong running team.

Don't expect the Colts to dramatically change their offensive game plan with Spikes out, but his loss will be felt. Spikes is also a free  agent after this season and the big question now is will the Patriots bring him back?

Look for Dane Fletcher and rookie Jamie Collins to assume bigger roles against the Colts. Collins, in particular, may be a big factor because of his athleticism and ability to cover receivers.

THERE WAS a bit of earlier intrigue on Monday when the Colts signed former Patriot wide receiver Deion Branch, who had worked out for them recently.

Branch, long a favorite of Tom Brady, was never called on by the Patriots when injuries shortened their receiving corps. So the thought out there is that they signed him for some inside information on what makes Brady and the offense click.

Here's the thing: he hasn't been around this team all year, so whatever knowledge he has might not be that current.

FINALLY, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels admitted in a conference call that he had spoken with the Cleveland Browns over the weekend regarding their open head coach position.

But, he said, that's all it was. "We met and that's about all there is at this point. Nothing, nothing further.''

McDaniels said he understood why the question came up, but that he is trying to keep his focus on preparing for the Colts.

"I know that’s something that comes up each time this year for other coaches. The opportunities are certainly flattering if they come up. That being said, I am going to try to keep my focus on the Colts and our preparation this week. Like I’ve said in the past, I’m fortunate to have the job I have and I love being here. I love doing what I’m doing. Each opportunity that comes along is a little different and I’m going to leave it at that and continue to put my effort and attention into the Colts this week.''

About this Blog

Mike Lowe has covered the New England Patriots since 1999 for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram and has had a nice view of their emergence as one of the NFL’s premier franchises.

He’s been at the paper since 1982 and has covered everything from a Little League World Series to the Summer Olympics. He is married to Tracie and they have three children and two grandchildren.

Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeLowePPH.

Previous entries

March 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013

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