<
>

No overlooking Vince Wilfork's value

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Reading a column on New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork by Chad Finn of Boston.com sparked a thought that seemed worthy of passing along.

At Saturday's "Playoff Huddle" with Scott Zolak and former longtime Patriots assistant coach Dante Scarnecchia, a question was asked from the audience about the most indispensable Patriots players. It was agreed upon that quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski and cornerback Darrelle Revis were tops on the list. Then Scarnecchia requested a fourth name be added: Wilfork's.

Scarnecchia marveled at Wilfork's contributions this season and how he's played such a high percentage of snaps -- and played them well -- coming off a ruptured Achilles (73.9) that limited him to four games last season. He then explained Wilfork's value as an interior rock in the middle of the defense, speaking from the perspective of a coach who knows how challenging it can be to block a player like that.

It was behind-the-scenes insight and especially timely, because the 6-foot-2, 325-pound Wilfork figures to be a central part of what the Patriots' plan on Saturday against the Ravens.

During his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI on Monday, Wilfork said, "One thing that always stands out with Baltimore is how physical they play. We understand this game is going to be a lot about up front ... To play a team like [the Ravens], you have to be able to play physical at the line of scrimmage. The more you do against a team like this, the more success you have -- we can't play lateral, we have to be vertical, press blockers, get off blocks and gang tackle and rally to the ball.

"One of the things they pride themselves on is being able to run the ball and controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides. With that being said, we know what we have to do. We have to try to win that battle at the line of scrimmage. It's going to be an old-school football game, a physical ballgame."