During his weekly appearance on The Big Show Monday afternoon, Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork said this year's team has mental toughness that he feels was lacking in previous seasons. New England can secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a victory in Foxboro against Buffalo on Sunday. Last year, the Pats earned the top seed as well, but were upset in the divisional round by the Jets.
"I think we have a different ball club [this season],” Wilfork said. “We can't look at last year or the year before. This ball club that I have now, is a tough football team and we haven't had that in years past. Whatever happens on the field, they will not shell, not panic, lose concentration or focus. I'm excited about this week getting started, and if I'm feeling this way, I'm pretty sure everyone else is because this team is an amazing team when it comes down to character.
“This team went through a lot this year, ups and downs, and no one pointed the figure,” he continued. “We all came in each week and said we have to get better, we have to improve. That's our game plan each week, we have to improve. After this, it's a one-game season. We have to put all of our eggs in one basket.”
Wilfork lauded the resilience and mental toughness put on display against the Dolphins this past weekend, something he said never waned.
“I never thought from the sideline we were going to lose the game [against Miami],” Wilfork said. “I never thought guys gave up. Never once this year have I thought that. This team is a classy team. Being down 17-0, a lot of teams would have packed it in. I looked around and didn't see panic, and didn't see anybody yelling at one another."
Although, later on, Wilfork admitted the team cannot afford to dig itself into holes and, this week against the Bills, must start trusting its preparation as the competition gets harder.
“[We have to] start fast and make plays early,” he said. “[Not] wait until we need a play or until we're down. [Sometimes] we see things but we don't trust. We don't trust our technique, film we watch and our instincts. At some point we have to trust ourselves to make plays. Sometimes you're going to have to take the ball away. Sometimes I feel like we're scared to make a play on the ball. When we do that we'll be happy with the outcome.
“The teams we're going to be playing, starting this week against Buffalo, are not slouches,” Wilfork said. “Buffalo has beaten us already this year and [after that] the teams that we're going to be playing are in the playoffs for a reason. We have to match the intensity starting this week. We can't wait until the postseason, it doesn't work that way.”
The three-time Pro Bowler said the Patriots have yet to play a “complete” game. “Not once have we played 60 minutes of complete football,” he said. “I want to see how that looks, to play a complete 60 minutes as the New England Patriots. We have yet to do it. We've played three quarters and 55 minutes, but we haven't played 60 minutes. It's a great time to start this week.”
Wilfork echoed Tom Brady's claim Monday morning on Dennis & Callahan that team improvement and performance are more important than seeding. “[A bye week is] not important,” Wilfork said. “A week off didn't do us justice [last season]. I don't care, I just want to be able to get better as a football team.”
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-- RYAN HADFIELD