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Vince Wilfork almost certainly played his last NFL game Saturday night 01.15.17 at 1:07 am ET
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Vince Wilfork will likely be retiring from the NFL. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Vince Wilfork will likely be retiring from the NFL. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — It’s only fitting.

Texans defensive tackle Vince Wilfork walked off the Gillette Stadium field saluting the crowd Saturday night after falling to the Patriots 34-16, ending his season, his second with the Texans after 11 years in New England.

In the past few weeks Wilfork said he would be contemplating retirement at age 35 years old and he all but confirmed it after the game.

“No emotions and I will take my time and think about it,” Wilfork said. “I think I have played my last NFL football game. I will take the time and do my due diligence and sit back and see if I really want to retire. We will see. I don’t know how long that will take. I will see, it doesn’t change the fact that I enjoyed every bit of my career.

“I enjoyed 11 great years in New England and two great years in Texas with unbelievable teammates. I couldn’t have any better teammates from both organizations and you talk about the organizations themselves and you talk about top of the class. These are two owners that anyone would love to play for.”

After the game Wilfork embraced dozens of his former teammates and coaches on the field and walked off to a large ovation. Before the game when he was walking on to the field he was shown on the video board, which drew a large ovation from the crowd.

Given Wilfork started his career in New England, it seems fitting he also ends it there.

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Mike Petraglia, Ryan Hannable recap historic night as Patriots clinch 6th straight AFC title appearance, Vince Wilfork’s last game at 12:52 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots, thanks to Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman, made some NFL playoff history Saturday night in what will likely be Vince Wilfork’s final game in the NFL. The Patriots advance to their 6th straight AFC championship with a 34-16 win over the Texans. Mike Petraglia and Ryan Hannable have the details inside Gillette Stadium.

Read More: Dion Lewis, houston texans, Mike Petraglia, New England Patriots
Scouting Report: What you have to know about Texans-Patriots 01.13.17 at 3:01 pm ET
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Tom Brady will make the 32nd postseason start of his career Saturday against Houston. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Tom Brady will make the 32nd postseason start of his career Saturday against Houston. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Everything you need to know for Saturday’s divisional playoff contest between the Patriots and Texans at Gillette Stadium.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL

This may not be a big component of the game in the early going, but it will be before things are all said and done. LeGarrette Blount (299 carries, 1,161 rushing yards, a league-high 18 rushing touchdowns) was able to run for big yardage when these two teams met back in September (24 carries, 105 yards, 2 TDs), and while it’s dicey to try and compare these two teams now to what happened a few months ago, stats tell us that the Texans are still vulnerable when it comes to rush defense; they finished the year 12th in the NFL against the run, yielding an average of 99.7 rushing yards per game. One thing with Blount, as we saw in September? There are few guys in the league better when it comes to executing in a four-minute offense. In the second half of that win over Houston, he had 17 carries for 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It’s not so much Blount’s total yards that matter, but when he gets them. One other guy worth watching will be Dion Lewis (64 carries, 283 yards), who got a significant uptick in reps between the tackles over the last month of the season as a changeup offering to the wrecking-ball approach of Blount.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL

If they’re all healthy, we’re an advocate for the idea of dressing all five receivers and giving New England the sort of depth in the passing game that they haven’t had in a playoff game in a long time. Basically, give Tom Brady (67 percent completion rate, 3,554 passing yards, 28 TDs, 2 INTs) as many options as possible when it comes to the quick hitters; you get the ball out as fast as possible, it minimizes the chances of the Houston pass rush getting after the quarterback. Expect the bulk of the targets to go to Julian Edelman (98 catches, 159 targets, 1,106 yards, 3 TDs), who has been as rock solid as they come over the second half of the season. Martellus Bennett (55 catches, 73 targets, 701 yards, 7 TDs) and Chris Hogan (38 catches, 58 targets, 680 yards, 4 TDs) will also figure into the mix.

Over the course of the season, the Texans were second against the pass (201.6 yards allowed per game), while their 17 takeaways were tied for 26th in the league. Safety Quentin Demps, who has been dogged by a hamstring issue, leads Houston with six interceptions. Per Football Outsiders, the Texans aren’t great at slowing backs in the passing game, which means there could be more chances for Lewis (17 catches) and James White (60 catches) on Saturday. Meanwhile, Whitney Mercilus (7.5 sacks), Jadaveon Clowney (6 sacks) and Benardrick McKinney (5 sacks) lead one of the better pass rush groups in the league. Look for lots of heavy sets with an extra blocker (Cam Fleming) when it comes to helping the tackles keep Brady as clean as possible. For what it’s worth, Brady has gone up against a Romeo Crennel-led defense on three occasions, and has averaged 20-for-32 (63 percent) for 242 yards, just over two touchdowns, no interceptions and two sacks per game.

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Read More: A.J. Bouye, Brock Osweiler, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola
Tom Brady admits he hates playing against Vince Wilfork 01.11.17 at 7:03 pm ET
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Tom Brady will face Vince Wilfork for a second time on Saturday. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady will face Vince Wilfork for a second time on Saturday. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — After playing with him for 11 years in New England, Saturday night will be the second time Tom Brady has gone against Vince Wilfork on the other side of the ball.

(Brady missed the Week 3 game earlier this season between the Patriots and Texans.)

Despite being 35 years old, Wilfork is still playing at a high level and Brady acknowledged he’d prefer if Wilfork was on his own team.

“I’ve looked over center for many years and seen him. He’s just in a different jersey. But he’s still just a force,” Brady said on a conference call with the Houston media. “I mean both in the run game and the pass game. He still gets pressure in the pocket. Vince [Wilfork] has been one of the best players in the league since he got in the league. He’s been a great addition for that team. I hate playing against him. I’d much rather have him on our team, but that’s not the way it works out, or worked out last year. But it’s still great to see him playing and playing well”

The Texans are 0-4 in their history at Gillette Stadium being outscored 150-49 and have allowed 40 or more points in three of the four meetings. The only time they didn’t allow 40 points was this past season when the Patriots won 27-0 in Week 3.

Brady doesn’t know why teams like the Texans always have an issue at Gillette Stadium.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “I’ve never really paid much attention to that. I think for us Coach [Bill Belichick] always says ‘It’s how we play; it’s not who we play or where we play.’ I think for us playing well at home, I think it does help offensively, just the communication because you can make some last second adjustments to run stuff, protection, you can change routes or change concepts with very little time left on the play-clock, which is I guess challenging to do when you’re on the road. We try to build some things in on the road that make it a little bit easier to communicate, but it’s certainly easier to communicate at home.”

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Read More: Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork,
Vince Wilfork brought up 2007 Giants when asked about 16-point spread for Saturday’s Patriots-Texans game 01.10.17 at 3:35 pm ET
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Vince Wilfork isn't worried about the point spread. (Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today Sports)

Vince Wilfork isn’t worried about the point spread. (Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Vince Wilfork doesn’t care about the Texans being 16-point underdogs to the Patriots on Saturday in the divisional round.

Speaking to the New England media on a conference call Tuesday, Wilfork brought up the 2007 Giants when they beat the Patriots, 17-14 in the Super Bowl despite being 12-point underdogs.

He also brought up the National Championship Monday night, as Clemson upset Alabama.

“I think last night we saw the game with Alabama and Clemson where these so-called experts had Clemson as the underdog,” Wilfork said. “In ’07 the experts had the New York Giants as underdogs and both of those teams went on to win the Super Bowl and the National Championship so it goes to show you what these experts know.”

Added Wilfork: “We don’t pay attention to outside what people have to say about us or how good or how bad we are,” he said. “I think this team is a close-knit group. We play well together and we approach everything as a family. Win or lose. Win as a team, lose or as a team.”

While this year’s Texans team isn’t close to what the 2007 Giants were, it’s a reminder anything can happen.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

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Vince Wilfork talks upcoming decision: ‘Even if I do call it quits, I had a great career’ at 2:56 pm ET
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Saturday could be Vince Wilfork's last game. (Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today Sports)

Saturday could be Vince Wilfork’s last game. (Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Whenever Vince Wilfork and the Texans’ season ends, the 35-year-old will have a decision to make: Continue to play and sign a new contract, or retire.

Last week Wilfork told reporters in Houston he is contemplating retirement after the season and he reiterated those comments Tuesday on a conference call with the New England media.

“It still stands what I said last week,” Wilfork said. “At this point in my career, [that will be something] I will be thinking about once the season ends to see what I really want to do. It’s hard to walk away from something that you love and have been playing for so long, but we can’t play the game forever. That’s a decision I will make at the end of the season and give it some time and some thought and a lot of different things and go from there.

“Whenever I make that decision, I am full fledged making the decision. I won’t be one of those ones to call it quits and say, ‘No, I’m not retiring. I am coming back’ and play that game. When I hang my cleats up, I am going to hang them up for good. That’s something at the end of this season I will take a look at and weigh my options and see how I feel about it.”

The defensive tackle will be a free agent after signing a two-year, $9 million deal with the Texans following winning Super Bowl XLIX with New England.

If Wilfork does indeed retire, he would do so making the playoffs in every year of his career, except for one. In 2008, led by Matt Cassel the Patriots didn’t reach the postseason, but it came down to the final week of the regular season.

Wilfork knows how lucky he is.

“That is a blessing and it’s rare,” he said. “My 13-year career, 12 years I have been in the postseason and the one year I didn’t make it, [we were] 11-5 and having a chance at the last game of the season, different guys going in, all of this, different scenarios and having a chance at going to the postseason. I played a lot of football in my career. I don’t regret anything I’ve done. I had a great career — even if I do call it quits, I had a great career.

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Bill Belichick on D&H praises Patriots coordinators, ‘their choice’ to take potential head coaching job 01.09.17 at 5:42 pm ET
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Bill Belichick praised his coordinators on Monday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick praised his coordinators on Monday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined Dale & Holley with Rich Keefe on Monday to preview Saturday’s divisional round game against the Texans and also to discuss Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia potentially taking head coaching jobs. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

On Saturday, Patricia interviewed the the Rams and Chargers, while McDaniels met with the 49ers, Rams and Jaguars (Jacksonville reportedly has hired Doug Marrone).

Belichick was asked about the two and if he takes pride in having his coaches get head coaching interviews.

“It happened last year, so it’s not a novel thing,” he said. “It is what it is. They have done a good job for me and if an opportunity comes up for them that is right for them, then I hope if they want to move on that way professionally then that’s their choice.”

As for the Texans matchup on Saturday, Belichick said the team got a head start on them since they played on Saturday against the Raiders.

“Just trying to see what is going to happen in the Pittsburgh game,” he said. “We had already started on Houston because they had won Saturday night and just confirming, I mean kind of felt Pittsburgh had the upper-hand there playing at home, but you never know. Once we got to about the middle of the third quarter, we folded up all the Miami stuff and kept going on Houston.”

The Patriots will see a familiar face on the defensive side of the ball in Vince Wilfork, who played for the Patriots from 2004-14. Belichick drafted him in the first round of the 2004 draft and coached him for his entire career in New England, which means he knows he special of a player and person Wilfork is.

“Vince is a really special guy,” he said. “Not only on the field, but off the field, his ability to connect with pretty much everybody — owners, coaches, players, offensive players, defensive players, you name it, [his wife] Biana. The things they did as a family and did with the entire team whether it was the D-linemen or taking the defense over to their house, having cookouts and so forth. Things like that. They were just good team-building things. Good relationship building.

“He was a big player and a good player for us. Had a lot of big plays. Had some huge plays. Sacking [Joe] Flacco on a play in the playoffs, an interception against Oakland to win the game in ’14. Things like that. He’s been a big impact on this organization.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, matt patricia, Vince Wilfork
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