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Matt Patricia on loss of Vince Wilfork: ‘The next guy has to step up and perform’

10.01.13 at 4:02 pm ET

Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said Tuesday that when it comes to replacing veteran defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, the team will rely on the “next man up” approach to pick up the slack.

“Certainly, he’€™s someone that we rely on heavily,” Patricia said on a conference call with the media Tuesday afternoon. “But like in all situations and cases, the situation is what it is and the next guy has got to step up and perform to the best of his ability and go out there and obviously execute whatever it is we’€™re asking him to execute.

“Certainly injuries are an unfortunate part of the game of football, but that is what it is, and we’€™re obviously going to expect whoever’€™s out on the field to perform to the highest level of their ability. But certainly Vince Wilfork is a phenomenal player for us and certainly someone who we rely on week in week out to really attack each opponent at a truly very professional level.”

The loss of Wilfork will be felt on and off the field. The Miami product, in his 10th season in the league, is one of the most well-respected players in the New England locker room. The 31-year-old All-Pro brings a certain level of work ethic, leadership and gravitas that few can match.

“Obviously, first and foremost, Vince is just a phenomenal player both on and off the field for us,” Patricia said. “Defensively — from his leadership to his ability to his work ethic, which is such an incredible example, all of which all of our guys look at and try to model themselves after. Certainly from that standpoint, he’€™s phenomenal as a professional and someone that takes his craft very seriously and works extremely hard to improve himself every day. It’€™s a great work ethic for everyone to see, whether you’€™re a younger player or an older player that’€™s maybe just gotten to our program to really take a look at and obviously see someone like Vince prepare himself week in week out.”

Here are some of the highlights from the rest of Patricia’s Q&A with the media:

Tony Gonzalez proved to be a handful to try to contain last week. Going forward, the Bengals have a couple tight ends in Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert who also will pose a challenge for your defense. Do they go out together? Do they have a lot of two-tight-end sets, and what type of challenge do they pose?

“I think that’€™s a great question. Obviously Cincinnati offensively has a lot of talent and ability and is certainly a big challenge for us this week. You can start with the quarterback position: Andy Dalton, who obviously is really developing under the system that Coach Jay Gruden has offensively there, and is really trying to take ownership and leadership of the offense and distribute the ball appropriately. To their running game, BenJarvus Green-Ellis is obviously someone we have familiarity with who’€™s just a tough, physical runner, can really get the ball downhill and push the pile and get that positive yardage, which is certainly a challenge for us. And then the young guy they have, Giovanni Bernard who is extremely athletic, great speed, good ability, good vision, a very gifted runner and obviously part of the passing game. Big challenge there combined with a very big, strong, powerful offensive line, so certainly we’€™ll have our work cut out for us there. Moving into the skill position, I mean A.J. Green is a phenomenal wide receiver who will be a big challenge for us along with [Mohamed] Sanu opposite him. And then the two tight ends, which they obviously have a lot of confidence in to go out and perform. They’€™re out on the field a lot, whether they’€™re together or individually out there in their different packages, but they certainly definitely create a challenge for any defense to try to match up against and really try to handle the combination of their size, athleticism, their speed, and just the ability for them to get on the edge and block. So certainly another huge challenge for us this weekend, and something we’€™re working hard to try to get ready for.”

You guys have had some success on red zone defense in keeping opponents out of the end zone. When you’€™re back there and the margin of error is so thin and the focus is amplified, what gets you in trouble more ‘€“ a mental mistake or a physical one?

“That’€™s a good question. The red zone is an extremely difficult area of the field to defend for us. Everything happens extremely fast down there from a standpoint both offensively and defensively, so certainly I would say both of those things obviously can hurt you, whether it’€™s a mental mistake or a physical mistake or anything scheme-wise there. It just happens very fast, so you have to do a great job of preparing and studying and really ahead of time understanding what you’€™re trying to accomplish in that area of the field and be able to do it at a very up-tempo level.”

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