He doesn’t put up big statistics, but few people make a bigger difference for their teams than Patriots most tackle Vince Wilfork.
That was the case in last night’s 49-19 win over the Jets, as Wilfork disrupted everything the Jets tried for a stretch, and made the play that made them the butt of all the jokes today. He was credited with just three tackles, but was the reason many more were made.
“If one of us is making a big play near the line of scrimmage, Vince is almost always a factor in it,” linebacker Jerod Mayo said, via Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe.
Pushing Jets guard Brandon Moore’s backside into quarterback Mark Sanchez might have been just the most obvious, but there were several other examples.
“I’m just taught to fight pressure with pressure, so I just started fighting back and knocked him into Sanchez and it created a fumble,” Wilfork said of the play that made the cover of the New York Post under the headline “BUTT UGLY.”
Mayo made a pair of short-yardage run stops which were directly because Wilfork tied up a double-team or otherwise blew up a play.
“It’s just man on man,” Wilfork said. “I think if I can occupy two [blockers], I know one of my ’backers is free. And I have some great ’backers. I put them up against any ’backers in the league at what we do. And I know I expect for them to make plays.”
It’s not a glamorous role to play, but the Patriots know he’s vital to what they do.
“Very unselfish,” coach Bill Belichick said. “We play him in different positions, where we feel like he’s maybe the most needed, not necessarily where it’s going to feature him or give him a great opportunity to make plays. But a lot of times it is to eat up blockers or try to disrupt plays.
“He’s an explosive guy that’s got very good football instincts. He knows where the ball is, he knows what they’re trying to do. He really responded to a lot of the different challenges or positions that we put him in. He’s done a very unselfish job and been very productive.”
He’s also getting more productive as the weeks pass, which is a good sign for a team that appears to be hitting its stride.