FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Just like practice. Nothing to it for Vince Wilfork Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
Cover the receiver like a blanket, find the football, tip it to yourself, cradle the pigskin and take off down the field with the interception, hopefully winding up in the end zone.
Wilfork followed the plan almost to perfection on a late first-half throw by the San Diego Chargers’ Philip Rivers.
But this wasn’t your basic interception by a typical interceptor.
Did we mention that Vince Wilfork stands 6-foot-2 and weighs a svelte 325 pounds? Did we mention that Wilfork generally is an immovable object in the middle of the New England Patriots’ defensive line?
That was no defensive back picking off Rivers’ pass for Mike Tolbert. That was the mountainous Vince Wilfork doing his DB impersonation, taking off down the field on a 36-yard jaunt into San Diego territory -- “Rumblin’, stumblin’, tumbling,” according to Pats linebacker Jerod Mayo.
Wilfork didn’t get into the end zone, but he did set up a field goal nine seconds later on the final play of the first half that put the Pats on top, 20-7, en route to a 35-21 win.
It was the first NFL interception for Wilfork, in his eighth year in the league. And he thought he had a chance to score.
“Yeah, I did. Any time you get your hands on the ball you think about scoring as a defensive player,” said Wilfork, who actually was tripped up by teammate Devin McCourty, who was flagged for hitting Tolbert from behind as the Chargers’ running back tried to reach out for Wilfork.
Wilfork was in the right place at the right time because of his instincts. And he was able to pick off Rivers because he said the defensive linemen practice such situations every now and then.
“When I saw the running back take off, I was thinking (it would be a) screen (pass) from the look the guard was giving. I got out there and made the play. When you take a chance like that you better make the play,” said Wilfork, who racked up the 14th interception by a defensive lineman in team history and the first since Richard Seymour picked one off against Houston on Dec. 17, 2006.
Wilfork actually tipped the ball first and then caught it before taking off down the field.
The play surprised San Diego coach Norv Turner.
“I mean, he (Rivers) has a guy running wide open, and that (interception) is a once in a lifetime. Defensive lineman running a twist and taps it to himself. You know, sometimes things like that happen. I am sure Philip never saw him, he saw Tolbert running free, where he thought he could get him out of bounds and kick a field goal there,” said Turner.