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Why dealing with Kyle Williams is critical to keeping Patriots ground game running 09.29.16 at 1:32 pm ET
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Sep 25, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) is tackled by Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams (95) during the second half at New Era Field. Bills beat the Cardinals 31-18. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Williams has been a force for Buffalo defense early on in the 2016 season. (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — The Patriots have been running the ball better than any team in the NFL through three weeks.

If that’s to continue this week, they will have to contain one of the best interior lineman in football.

Kyle Williams is in his 11th season with the Bills as the anchor of their defensive line. He was a stud the moment he came in as a fifth-round pick out of LSU in 2006. He was limited to six games last season because of torn meniscus in his left knee.

With Williams back this season, Buffalo is allowing just 98 yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry. The Jets ran for 123 yards in the 37-31 win on Sept. 15, and that’s what the Patriots will try to copy. But the Bills were also able to hold the Ravens to 83 yards and the Cardinals to 88 yards. In three games, Williams has 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks for the Bills.

The Patriots come into Sunday’s game with the leading rusher in the NFL and AFC offensive player of the month. LeGarrette Blount leads all of football in yards (298) and carries (75). But what sticks out the most to Williams is how physical the line in front of Blount is playing with Dante Scarnecchia back as offensive line coach.

“The thing is, you know I’ve played against them a number of years, you see the same things that you saw a decade ago,” Williams said. “Physical offensive line that plays hard and doesn’t make mistakes, a running back that hits things downhill, a tough runner. So it’s going to be a great test for us. There’s no doubt about it. Coach Scarnecchia always does a great job with his O-line and they don’t beat themselves. So just be on top of our jobs and be ready a physical football game on Sunday.”

Williams, at 6-foot-1, 305 pounds, is not considered the typical two-gap, run-stopping force in the middle of the line.

“I think Kyle is just a great player,” his coach Rex Ryan said in a conference call. “You know it’s as simple as that. He’s much different than a Vince Wilfork but he’s more of a penetrating one-gap player. But he can do it all. He’s got great pass rush from the inside.”
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Read More: Buffalo Bills, Kyle Williams, LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots
Vince Wilfork appreciative of video montage in return to Gillette Stadium 09.23.16 at 2:00 am ET
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Vince Wilfork recorded seven tackles in his return to Gillette Stadium. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Vince Wilfork recorded seven tackles in his return to Gillette Stadium. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Thursday wasn’t the homecoming Vince Wilfork was looking for.

For the first time since the 2014 AFC championship game, Wilfork played a game at Gillette Stadium as the defensive tackle signed with Houston after the Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX.

In what was surely an emotional night for him, things didn’t go well on the field as the Texans were blown out by the Patriots, 27-0.

“Any time you get skunked it is embarrassing,” Wilfork said. “You’ve got to take it personally. If you don’t there is something wrong with you.”

Added Wilfork: “We came into Gillette Stadium and got smoked. We’ve got to regroup. They played a hell of a game. We’ve got to put this one behind us and move forward quick. It was a real surprise. What can you do? You’ve got to five them a lot of credit. They came ready to play and showed up and we didn’t.”

Wilfork finished the game with seven tackles, but the best moment may have come right before the Patriots’ first offensive possession of the game when a video montage was shown on the video board paying tribute to his 11 years and two Super Bowl titles with the Patriots.

He was very appreciative of the gesture as when the crowd stood and applauded, Wilfork acknowledged them with a few small waves.

“I had 11 great years here,” Wilfork said. “The fans, my teammates, the coaches, it was awesome and I love my memories here. It just goes to show the mutual respect they have for me. I feel the same way towards them. I love them. This was home. For 11 years it was home. They drafted me. And for me to come back and show the respect they did it shows what kind of organization they are.”

Wilfork seems likely to return to Gillette at least one more time when he’s inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame, as team president Jonathan Kraft alluded to before the game.

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Jonathan Kraft says Vince Wilfork will ‘always be a Patriot’ and Jacoby Brissett is ‘not along for the ride’ 09.22.16 at 8:39 pm ET
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Jonathan Kraft

Jonathan Kraft

FOXBORO — As Patriots president Jonathan Kraft was doing his pregame radio interview on the team’s network, a big ovation broke out in the middle.

The crowd was paying tribute to Vince Wilfork, who was being shown on the video board in his Texans uniform, getting ready for the game. It will be the second time Wilfork has faced Belichick’s Patriots but the first time Wilfork has returned to Foxboro since leaving after the 2014 season and signing a two-year, $9 million deal.

“They should [applaud] and if we weren’t all talking, I would’ve been applauding, too,” Kraft said. “I love the guy. To me, he’ll always be a Patriot. I can’t wait till we induct him into the [Patriots] Hall because I think that’s probably a foregone conclusion. He was the heart and soul of not just the defense but that locker room for a number of years. He and Bianca were both [great]. They were everything you could want in a football player and his family, on and off the field. It’s amazing to watch what he does at his age. He’s still playing really good football.”

The tribute continued during the game, as with 12:16 left in the first quarter, Wilfork took the field for the first time with the Texans defense. A highlight video was shown and at the end of the 30-second video, Wilfork waved his hand to the crowd in appreciation.

As for when he knew about Jimmy Garoppolo not dressing for the game or when he might be ready to return, Kraft played it coy.

“I don’t know exactly. I guess earlier [Thursday],” Kraft said. “It wasn’t two days ago but to be fair, I wasn’t asking the question two days ago. Earlier today, I asked the question.”

How long might Garoppolo be out?

“We’re going to let you ask Bill that question,” Kraft said. “I might or I might now but I’m going to let you ask Bill that question.”
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Read More: houston texans, Jacoby Brissett, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jonathan Kraft
5 things you have to know about Texans: J.J. Watt leads Houston into Foxboro for battle of unbeatens 09.20.16 at 9:48 am ET
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J.J. Watt will lead the Texans in Foxboro Thursday. No word if they're bringing their letterman jackets. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

J.J. Watt will lead the Texans into Foxboro on Thursday. No word if they’re bringing their letterman jackets this time. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

Five things you have to know about the Texans, who will face the Patriots on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.

1. They love to go deep

Through the first two games, few teams have taken as many deep shots as the Texans. Rookie wide receiver Will Fuller has become one of Brock Osweiler’s favorite targets. According to Pro football Focus, 10 of Fuller’s 18 targets have been 20-plus yards downfield, the highest total in the NFL. In addition, the average depth of target has been 23.5 yards, the fourth highest in the NFL and the highest of anyone with 10-plus targets. Fuller (9 catches, 234 yards, 23.4 yards per catch, 1 TD) and DeAndre Hopkins (12 catches, 167 yards, 13.9 yards per catch, 2 TDs) form the foundation of the Houston passing attack. In his first season with the Texans, Osweiler has enjoyed some success through the first two games, completing passes at a 60 percent rate (41-for-68) for 499 yards, with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Look for Osweiler to try to stretch the field against the New England passing game. Of course, putting up big numbers in the passing game isn’t always a recipe for success against the Patriots, but it’ll be interesting to see him try.

2. Their running game does have some similarities to the Patriots

Lamar Miller signed with the Texans in the offseason, and through two games he’s rushed for 189 yards on 53 carries (3.6 yards per carry). Not overwhelming numbers, but certainly comparable to what LeGarrette Blount has done in New England in that he’s been able to loosen up some opposing defenses, get some big yards at important times and chew up some clock. (Blount has 51 carries for 193 yards — fourth best in the AFC — and an average of 3.8 yards per carry. Miller is fifth best in the AFC at 53 carries, 189 yards and 3.6 yards per carry.) After three mostly fruitless quarters against the Kansas City defense, Miller’s hard work paid off in the fourth quarter when he had 45 yards on 12 carries and finish with 25 carries for 83 yards on the afternoon. Ultimately, it’s not a surprise that both Miller and Blount are in the same statistical neighborhood to start the year, as both have been utilized in similar fashion through the first two games.

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Read More: Brock Osweiler, DeAndre Hopkins, j.j. watt, Jadaveon Clowney
Magnificent 7: On Hall of Fame weekend, these current and former Patriots deserve consideration for Canton 08.07.16 at 6:37 pm ET
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Ty Law deserves Hall of Fame consideration.  (Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

Ty Law deserves Hall of Fame consideration. (Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

On Hall of Fame weekend, here are seven current and former Patriots who deserve to be a part of the conversation when it comes to Canton.

Bill Belichick: There will be some critics who don’t agree, but as his boat reminds us, Belichick has won four titles as a head coach and two as an assistant. That’s six rings. SIX. That should be enough to gain entry on the first ballot, critics be damned.

Tom Brady: There will inevitably be some Deflategate drama when his name is raised, but four Super Bowl wins and a pair of MVPs should be enough to get him through on the first ballot.

Ty Law: I wasn’t a big believer in the possibility of a Law candidacy for the Hall. But a closer look at the numbers over the last few seasons reveals the fact that he’s at least worthy of a debate. His resume is pretty impressive, especially when stacked against others in Canton: Three Super Bowl rings, two All-Pro nods and 53 career picks, which puts him 24th on the all-time list. He was a semifinalist last year, but might need an advocate — like Ron Borges, who worked hard to get Andre Tippett in — if he wants to make it.

Adam Vinatieri: The automatic default is to reject the idea of a kicker in the Hall of Fame. But when it comes to Vinatieri, it’s hard to go against him. The best big game kicker of his generation, Vinatieri has played in five Super Bowls and won four rings. Two Super Bowl titles were ultimately decided on the strength of his right leg. When all is said and done, he should become the second pure kicker to reach the Hall. (Jan Stenrud is the only pure placekicker in the Hall of Fame. George Blanda and Lou Groza are also in Canton, but also did other things in addition to their work as kickers.)

Randy Moss: If Moss doesn’t get in, they should shut the place down. He’€™s second all-time in receiving touchdowns with 156 (trailing only Jerry Rice), third in all-time receiving yards (behind Rice and Terrell Owens) and 11th on the list of all-time catches (982). He’s got his detractors — he doesn’t have a signature moment, which many Hall voters require when it comes to wide receiver — but come on. He was an absolutely transformative presence for a decade.

Vince Wilfork: We’ve been on this for a while now, but it’s worth reiterating that because of his longevity and his track record as an absolutely vital part of a consistently good-to-great team over the course of a decade, he deserves a spot in the discussion when his time comes. The voters aren’t crazy about interior defensive linemen who don’t pile up sack numbers — most of the linemen who have gotten a spot have either been big sack guys or other defensive ends — and so he’s probably a long shot. (Nose tackles are few and far between.) As a result, Like Law, Wilfork probably needs to have someone advocating for him in the room when he comes up for discussion.

Gino Cappelletti: One of the best players of his era, Cappelletti played wide receiver and kicker for the Patriots for 10 years, and led the American Football League in scoring five times. (He retired as the AFL’s all-time leading scorer with 1,130 points.) The 1964 AFL Most Valuable Player played receiver and kicker, he was the face of the franchise throughout the 1960s, and had one of the most memorable careers of any of the old AFL stars.

Also worthy of consideration but failed to make the cut here for various reasons: Rob Gronkowski (who could be on the list sooner rather than later if he continues on his current path for another couple of years), Willie McGinest, Wes Welker, Rodney Harrison, Richard Seymour.

Read More: Adam Vinatieri, Bill Belichick, Gino Cappelletti, hall of fame
New model Vince Wilfork issues challenge to Tom Brady, Gisele 06.29.16 at 1:49 pm ET
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Former Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork will make his modeling debut in this year’s edition of The Body Issue in “ESPN: The Magazine.” In a video he posted to Instagram on Wednesday, he issued a good-natured challenge to his former teammate and his supermodel wife.

Read More: because it's the offseason, Gisele Bundchen, Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork
Ex-Patriots DL Vince Wilfork will be part of ESPN’s ‘Body Issue’ 06.21.16 at 2:14 pm ET
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Former Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork is one of a handful of athletes who will appear in this year’s edition of ESPN: The Magazine’s “Body Issue.”

The big fella, who played in New England for 11 years prior to the start of the 2015 season, is part of a group of athletes posing for the issue, which will hit newsstands in early July.

Wilfork told Texans PR: “I know I don’t have the six-packs and the eight-packs and all that … but I’m perfectly fine with what I am. … If people can look at me, look at a guy that’s 325-plus doing an issue like this, I’m pretty sure they might have a little confidence after seeing that it’s OK to be who you are.”

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