Vince Wilfork made his weekly appearance on The Big Show on Tuesday and said New England's defense has to find a way to get in the flow of the game earlier. The past two games New England has fallen behind by large deficits against division foes Miami and Buffalo before storming back for victories in the second half. The Patriots finished the regular season atop the AFC, thus earning a bye week. New England is scheduled to play their first playoff game on Saturday, Jan. 14, in the divisional round.
“We have to do a better job of making plays early,” Wilfork said. “We have to keep preaching it. Sooner or later, we have to start figuring it out and having it click early on. We can't wait until the second quarter or third or fourth series. We have to keep practicing, and hopefully we can get it.”
New England was the top seed in last year's postseason but lost at home to the Jets. The Patriots have failed to win a playoff game since the 2007-08 season, when they beat San Diego in the AFC championship game, 21-12. Wilfork said the team does not reflect on past postseason shortcomings or triumphs.
“We don't compare [this year's team] to last year, or the last two or three years,” he said. “Each year is different. You never see us walking around talking about '04 when we won it all. Last year is last year. We're not going to look back to last year, and try to figure out what happened. It's not worth it. Our goal is how to prepare to play good football Saturday. That's the only thing we have in mind. We always try to keep the past with the past, and deal with the present. Right now the present is the 2011-12 Patriots.”
Wilfork said New England has put itself in prime position and needs to capitalize with a strong week of preparation as well as maintaining health.
“It starts with a great week of practice," Wilfork said. "We need everyone as close to healthy as you can get. It's been a tough long season so far, we have to take advantage [of the bye week]. It is so easy to party and go out to have trouble find you. You have to be smart and ready to work, but you also need to use this time get your body the rest it needs to play. With this group of guys I don't think we'll have any problems of guys going out, doing any bonehead stuff. This is a special group of guys, we fight for one goal."
The maligned Patriots defense, anchored by Wilfork, is something the four-time Pro-Bowler knows can improve. “We haven't looked pretty,” Wilfork said. “It hasn't happened like what we wrote down in the book or like guys expected. We haven’t played 60 minutes of good football yet. But what we have done is been able to win, and that's what good football teams are able to do. Sometimes we don't get credit because of the statistics we've given up.”
In last year's playoff game, momentum shifted gears when Tom Brady was intercepted by David Harris of the Jets in the first quarter. Wilfork said his defense can similar provide game-changing turnovers for New England, despite its disappointing regular season.
“This game is decided on scoring points and being able to take the ball away,” Wilfork said. “Can we get better? Absolutely. Can we knock down yardage [given up]? Absolutely. It is what it is, but we have to do a better job.”
Ryan Hadfield contributed to this report.