Vince Wilfork on Arian Foster and Texans: ‘We are expecting their best’
|01.08.13 at 2:20 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Vince Wilfork doesn’t need a sports columnist to remind him that the Houston Texans will be highly motivated for their AFC divisional game this Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
The Pro Bowl nose tackle is fully aware the Texans will be out to show they are a much better team than the effort they put forth in their 42-14 no-show against the Patriots on Dec. 10.
“Yeah, we know that,” Wilfork said Tuesday. “They didn’t play their best game. They know that and we know that. Come Sunday we are expecting their best. It’s all or nothing from here on out and for us; we have to be able to execute. If we don’t execute, we’ll have troubles. First, it starts with their running game. It starts with [Arian] Foster – the more touches that he gets, in the passing game or on the ground, the better that team is. But I’m pretty sure they’re sitting down there saying, ‘You know what? They played us in the regular season and things didn’t go well.’ We basically outplayed them and they feel that they are a better football team and they are a better football team.
“There’s a reason that they’re in the postseason and there’s a reason that we’re in the postseason. So I don’t think anything from that game is going to play a huge factor. I think it will give them more momentum or give them more of an edge that they will want to come back up here and face us and try to beat us in Foxborough. So we can control what we can control, and that’s going to practice and working hard and trying to fix little kinks and stuff. We had a good chance to get back to work last week. We had two days of good practices, working on things that we think can help us moving forward. But it’s going to come down to execution – that’s what it’s going to boil down to. A bunch of guys making plays – who can make the most plays and who can execute well. That’s what this game is going to boil down to.”
And it just might boil down to how well the Patriots do against Arian Foster again. Back on Dec. 10, Wilfork and the Pats held Foster to 46 yards on 15 carries. Last week against the Bengals, Foster carried over twice that (32 carries) for over triple the amount of yards (140) and a touchdown.
“Absolutely, I expect to see the best,” Wilfork said of Foster. “Whatever they have, I expect to see it – the kitchen sink if it’s called for. But last week you saw why this guy is one of the top offensive players in the game – not just a back, but a top offensive player in the game – the things that he can do with the ball in his hands in the pass game and running it. He’s a great blocker when they ask him to block. I mean he’s a special player and we understand that. We know it starts with their running game. I mean you can’t x-out the receiver, Andre Johnson, you can’t x-out [Owen] Daniels, you can’t x-out the quarterback [Matt Schaub] and you can’t ex-out their Pro Bowl size. They’re well put together and the last time we played them, they didn’t play as well. So, I’m pretty sure that they’re going to come out here fired up and ready to play this week.”
Here is the remainder of Wilfork’s press conference on Tuesday at Gillette Stadium:
Q: What are some of the challenges of facing a team that runs a zone blocking scheme?
VW: Well always cut blocks. That’s something that they do very, very well. Their zone running scheme, stretch runs [and they] mix in a couple scheme runs. But playing cut blocks is always a big challenge when you’re facing a team like this because it seems like – I don’t care if you’re getting cut on the front side or the back side, that running back sees it and he hits it right off that cut block. So up front it’s going to be very important for us to try to stay on our feet and make sure that we are playing our blocks pretty good. And hopefully everybody around us is doing the same thing. But it’s always tough. Any team that runs the ball the way they run the ball and has the play-action and the bootlegs and all the stuff that comes after that, it’s a big challenge for us. But we’ve faced it, we’ve seen it a bunch of times, so we kind of know how we want to play this game. If we play it the way that we need to play it, we’ll be OK.
Q: You must have been pretty happy that you guys built an early lead in the last game and were able to take Arian Foster out of the game. Is it a huge relief for you to see the offense come out like that?
VW: Well anytime that you can get a team one dimensional that’s a big plus. Every team tries to do that. We try to do it, I’m pretty sure Houston tries to do it. It just bottles up a bunch of things when you can get a team like that one-sided; knowing when you can expect the pass, you can expect this and you can expect that. But when a team is on track and when they are running the ball good and throwing the ball good and the play action is good and the special teams are good, it’s tough. So you have to be able to play 60 minutes of good football. So we’re at the time now where we’re going to have to play that. We’re definitely going to have to play that from here on out. But starting with this game first, we have to put it together for one game and then move forward hopefully.
Q: Do you get an added sense of excitement at this time of the year? You have played a number of big games over your career, but is there still a step up in adrenaline for you?
VW: Absolutely. I mean, you lose and you go home, plain and simple. There’s no more next week or next time that we face them. You’re talking about next season. So we all have to be at our best. I have to be at my best, my teammates have to be at their best and the coaches have to be at their best. Coach [Belichick] has done a great job this year putting us in situations that make us successful. So hopefully we can carry it on, but we all have to raise it a notch just a little bit. Going forward we’re going to have to play like that. Like I said, hopefully this isn’t our last game. We go into this game like our backs are against the wall. You lose and you go home. That’s reality. There’s nothing else to it. You can’t sugar coat it; you lose and you go home, you win and you move on. We want to win and we have to do everything that we can to try to win. It starts in practice.
Q: For you specifically, what have been the physical benefits of the bye week? Do you feel like a new man after a few days off?
VW: I mean you could take it however you want to take it, but I think everybody treats it different. For me, it was doing what I needed to do to feel good. [I] still worked out, got a chance to watch football, got a chance to enjoy my family and got a chance to get away. Just clear your head and prepare for what’s soon to come hopefully. That’s how I approached it. Just knowing my level of play had to go up and my teammates’ level of play had to go up. So the best way to do that is to show; lead by example. A lot of times people think you have to talk; you don’t have to talk a lot. If you go to work and everybody sees that you’re boosting your level of play, they’ll follow. That’s my goal. Go out to practice today and boost our level of play up and hopefully guys can see that and hopefully I can bring some guys with me. We have a great group of guys now. I’m pretty sure that they’ll be ready, they’ll be excited [and] they should be. We’ve worked very, very hard to get to this point, but we can’t stop now. We can’t stop now, especially if we want to continue to play. So we have to do whatever it takes to win.
Q: After winning the Super Bowl right away as rookie, are you surprised that you have not won another one yet? Are you hungrier each year to get another one?
VW: Winning is hard. Winning one early in my career, you kind of get the sense that it happens like this all the time, but it doesn’t. It’s very, very hard to win at this level – at any level. We all play this game for one goal: to be champions, plain and simple. You can’t take a situation and overlook it. And the situation for us is the Houston Texans. We can’t overlook this team. We have to go in and play good football. If we play well, we’ll be OK, but if we don’t, we’ll be in trouble.
Q: A lot of times players will get a big contract and then their level of play drops off on the field. That really has not been the case with you. What do you attribute that to?
VW: I’m a football player. The passion and the love for the game that I have – money is good, but at the same time I played this game through high school, through college and now I’ve got the chance to play this game and people pay me to play what I love to do. So I never try to let that justify why I should play and why I shouldn’t play. It’s all in the heart: the passion and the love for the guys that you have in this locker room, love for the organization. That’s how I was brought up: I always loved sports, mainly football – I loved it – and until the day I don’t, that will be my last calling. But as long as I’m enjoying myself, I’ll continue to play no matter the price. It’s just love for the game.
Q: As a fellow University of Miami alum, were you pleased to see that last Sunday was not Ray Lewis’ last game?
VW: You know what, that guy means so much to the NFL. When I’m old and retired, this game is going to go on. People are always going to remember Ray Lewis. Always. He’s going to be remembered because the love that he has and the passion he has – I mean the way he can get guys to rally around him, it’s unbelievable. He’s a special guy. He’s a special, special guy, especially [as a] football player. He has every tool to be a great player. When you talk about being great and you talk about defense, the first person that comes to your mind is Ray Lewis. What he’s done over the years is ridiculous. He’s just a hell of a player, he’s a hell of a person. He’s just a great, great icon.
Q: Did it stir up some emotions watching him play last week?
VW: When I saw him come out and do his [dance], it was special, because everybody knows that trademark from him – his dance. You know, Bill [Belichick] called it a war dance. When he did that it sent chills up your body because he’s been doing this for so long. It’s hard to see a guy that’s been doing it for so long and at the level that he’s been doing it – it’s unheard of. That’s class. When you talk about greatness, you’re talking about greatness right there. He’s one of the best that has ever done it. His name can be with some of the greatest of all-time at the position and he shows it. For 17 years he’s shown it.
Q: Your name has been showing up on these all-pro lists as one of the four best defensive linemen in the NFL. What does that mean to you?
VW: It’s always an honor to get recognition like that, but to me I have always believed I was put on this earth to play football. At the end of the day that’s what I know: football, I know football. I know I can play football. I know what it takes to play football. I know what it takes to win. I know how it feels to lose. I’ve been in a lot of battles in my life in football. So all the recognition and accolades that come with it, that’s great. But at the end of the day I want to win, plain and simple. I try to do whatever I can to help this ball club win, because at the end of the day that’s what you get judged by – wins and losses. So I’ve always rolled like that and I’m always going to roll like that. I’m a big fan of team. If I wasn’t, I would be throwing shot put somewhere – which I can do. That was fine, but I love playing football and with football comes teammates, coaches, discipline, fundamentals, technique – [there are] so many things involved and it’s always a challenge. I’m always challenging myself to get better and until the day that I can’t, or my body tells me, ‘You know what Vince you can’t do it anymore,’ I’m going to continue to do it.
Q: Could we see you throwing the shot put in the Olympics one day?
VW: Man, I might be too old then. Those years have passed. But it’s fun because I actually have shot puts at my house. I bought them a couple years ago and last year I went out in the yard to see if I could throw it and I was OK [laughs]. I was OK, it’s like riding a bicycle.
Q: Did you throw it 70 feet?
VW: No, not 70 feet. I don’t have that in me anymore.
Q: How much do you think playoff experience matters?
VW: Well it only matters if you make it matter. You have to understand what’s at stake. I think that’s the biggest thing, for this team to understand where we’re at [and] what it’s going to take to win. That’s when you talk about how many times you’ve been in the postseason and stuff like that. But if you can’t put it out and you can’t execute, I don’t care how many times you’ve been at this level or how many games you’ve played in the postseason, it won’t matter. It will not matter. So we have guys that have been here before and we have guys that haven’t been here before. So our job is to make these guys understand what it takes to win, especially in a situation like this. Like I said, we have some good teammates – great teammates. They understand what we need to do to go out and perform our best. We just have to go out and execute.
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