Wilfork enjoying another standout season
FOXBOROUGH, MASS. (AP)
His numbers don't leap off the page. They never do.
Yet as he has done throughout his entire nine-year career in New
England, Vince Wilfork is leaving an unmistakable imprint all over the
Patriots this season.
The only defensive player still on the roster from any of New England's
championship teams is once again living up to the billing as one of the
best nose tackles in the league. Wilfork is a stalwart force in the
center of the Patriots' defensive line who's been instrumental in their
much-improved rushing defense.
''I could care less about stats,'' Wilfork said earlier in the year.
''The only stat I care about is the W. We win, and I'm happy. We lose,
and I'm not.''
The 6-foot-2, 325-pound Wilfork wasn't too jolly following New
England's 41-34 loss to San Francisco on Monday night that snapped the
Patriots' seven-game winning streak.
After back-to-back games against two of the top teams in the league -
the first a possible AFC championship preview against the Houston Texans and last week's showdown a potential Super Bowl matchup - New
England travels to Jacksonville to face the struggling Jaguars.
And after playing two teams that have combined for 22 victories,
Wilfork isn't about to look past 2-12 Jacksonville.
The Jaguars, like every other team on New England's schedule, likely
will find it impossible to overlook Wilfork.
''A lot of people might look at their record, but you can just tell,
they just line up and they play football. They're old school,'' Wilfork
said. ''They line up and they try to do things right and you can just
tell, when they do the things right, they move the ball, they make
''It's going to be challenging for us.''
Attempting to block Wilfork is always a tall order.
Just ask Patriots offensive lineman Nick McDonald, whose job is to help
handle Wilfork each and every practice.
''Going up against (a guy) like that, you've got to play your best
football. He's a tough player to defend,'' McDonald said. ''He's a
great football player. He's a good leader. He's a guy that's been
around the system for a long time and he does a lot of things well.
''He's a hell of a football player.''
When the stage is biggest, Wilfork seems to shine the most. Take two
weeks ago, for example.
The mammoth man in the middle was credited with four tackles, one for a
loss, a sack, one pass deflection and a forced fumble, igniting a
stunning blowout of the first-place Texans in front of a national
He also was almost single-handedly responsible for bottling up running
back Arian Foster, who for the third straight season has eclipsed 1,200
yards but managed just 46 yards on 15 carries against the Patriots.
Wilfork didn't even need to be standing on his large feet to make one
of the more memorable tackles of his season, either. On the second
offensive play of the game, Wilfork was blocked to the ground, but
still managed to clamp his massive mitts around Foster's shin, dragging
him down for a 1-yard loss.
''He's a unique player,'' McDonald said.
Wilfork by no means is your average pass rusher, barreling down the
middle rather than from the side, and has totaled fewer sacks in his
career (15) than some players have this season alone.
But then again, nothing about the four-time Pro Bowler is typical.
The surprisingly mobile veteran is enjoying a standout season for New
England with 42 tackles, two forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, a
pair of sacks and six passes defended.
''The athletic ability he has and the size he has is very rare, and
just his passion for the game,'' McDonald marveled. ''Guys that have
been around the league a long time like that and still have amazing
passion and work as hard as he does, he's going to be successful.''
The offensive line also is benefiting from his presence.
''Going up against a guy like that . that rare athletic ability and
size, the power he has, the quickness, it's definitely going to make
you better,'' McDonald said. ''He's going to make everybody around him
Wilfork is a major reason the Patriots have forced a turnover in 25
straight games and lead the league in turnover differential at plus-22,
seven more than second-ranked Houston.
''That's one of the things that we do. That's one of our goals. That's
one of the things that we work very hard toward. And it's paying off
for us this year,'' Wilfork said. ''Hopefully we can continue to get
our offense the ball. There's no other offense I would want to get the
ball than inside (quarterback Tom Brady's) hands. The more we get our
offense the opportunity with the ball, the better we'll be as a team,
and we understand that.
''Our goal is to go out and create negative plays and create turnovers
and give our offense the ball back.''
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