Vince Wilfork knows what it’s like to make an interception on a screen play, but it’s been quite a while since it’s happened.
According to Wilfork the last time he made an interception dates all the way back to his high school days when he picked off a pass almost the same way he did on Sunday, by reading a screen pass.
“High school I had one,” said Wilfork when asked when the last time he had an interception was. “I actually intercepted a screen play in high school, ended up getting cut – jumped up – and the ball was getting lobbed over my head, and I actually picked it. Didn’t score either – quarterback caught me. He was already in front of me, no one caught me from behind.”
On Sunday he made the first one of his NFL career, batting it down, and picking it off at their own 35, taking it back 36 yards the other way to the Chargers 29 in the closing seconds of the first half. Unfortunately this time around he did get caught from behind, but he thought he had a shot of reaching the endzone. The bad news is, San Diego runningback Mike Tolbert caught up with him and prevented him from scoring.
“Yeah, I did,” said Wilfork when asked if he thought he was going to score. “Anytime you get your hand on the ball you always think about scoring – as a defensive player. Because a lot of times you don’t get a chance to touch the ball.”
Wilfork got his first NFL interception on Sunday, and the first since his high school days. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
It was a big play, and it helped kill a potential scoring drive for the Chargers and allowed New England the chance to kick a field goal moments later to take a 20-7 lead into the locker room at the half. Had San Diego gone on to finish the drive and score a touchdown, it could have given them some momentum heading into the second half of the game since they would have pulled within just a field goal at 17-14.
However, Wilfork told reporters after the game that plays like that are ones they work on during practice, and fortunately it worked out for them.
“We play a lot of situational football around here, in that situation with two minutes, you kind of know what they were trying to do,” explained Wilfork. “I’m not saying I was right, but I saw the runningback take off and I was thinking ‘screen’, that’s what I was thinking from the look I got from my guard and just anticipating that it could be a screen. I actually got in his throwing lane, so I made a play, and Bill always says, “if you take a chance you better make it” and I guess I made it tonight.”
He did, and you could see how big his eyes were through his helmet as he took off running down the field. Devin McCourty tried to help knock out the guys behind him so that he could take it all the way back, but unfortunately he ended up getting penalized for an illegal block, and Wilfork eventually was brought down by Tolbert.
However he showed some pretty good speed on his 36 yard scamper, and he said he wasn’t winded at all after that sprint.
“No, I’m a well conditioned athlete, didn’t need any oxygen,” laughed Wilfork after the game. “So I was good to go.”
“I’m just happy I caught it because if I didn’t catch it, I’m pretty sure my teammates would have let me have it. As much junk as we talk around here – who’s better, defense or offense, who can play what position, I’m pretty sure they would have had to let have it if I would have dropped that ball. So now I can talk smack to them.”
After seeing teammate Zoltan Mesko suffer an injury late in the 3rd quarter, it left the Patriots without their punter, and could have potentially seen Stephen Gostkowski punt for the first time – which was initially the report. However, Wilfork said he could have stepped in had he been asked.
“Do I need to give you my resume? Of course I can punt,” said Wilfork when asked if he could punt. “I can punt.”
On Sunday offensive lineman Nate Solder filled in as a third tight end. When asked if he thought Belichick should give him an opportunity, Wilfork laughed, but said that there’s always plenty of talk between the two units as to who has the better athletes. After Sunday’s game he’s feeling pretty confident that he just proved it’s the defensive guys who hold the edge – for this week anyway.
“Like I said we always talk smack about who’s the better athlete, offense, defense – you name it, and we always do that,” said Wilfork. “I think I put the defense ahead of the offense right now – until…I think offense was ahead because of Troy Brown playing defense and actually coming up with some picks.
“But I think I pushed us back ahead when it counts now with that. Hey, we’ve got athletes on defense also.”