FOXBORO, Mass. — Maybe it was because Vince Wilfork was lumbering for his life. Or maybe it was because the Gillette Stadium crowd was ecstatic to see the big defensive lineman intercept his first career pass and head for the sideline.
Either way, the building was vibrating during the second quarter of the Patriots' 35-21 victory against the Chargers on Sunday.
Wilfork thought the Chargers were trying to free up running back Mike Tolbert in the right flat, so Wilfork stayed back, jumped on Philip Rivers' pass, corralled it and returned it 36 yards. It set up Stephen Gostkowski's 47-yard field goal before the buzzer that gave New England a 20-7 halftime lead.
In the present, Wilfork was thrilled to make a play that helped the team win, but in the long term, he was just relieved that he doesn't have to hear his teammates make fun of him for dropping an interception.
"I am just happy I caught it because if I didn't catch it, I am pretty sure my teammates would have let me have it," Wilfork said.
Wilfork was hoping to take it to the house.
"Anytime you get your hands on the ball, you always think about scoring as a defensive player," Wilfork said. "Because a lot of the times, you don't get a chance to touch the ball."
Wilfork's last interception came in high school, but his teammates weren't overly surprised that he made the play. Wilfork has shown some athleticism in practice, working as a quarterback when the offense and defense switch sides and once catching a punt to give the team the night off during training camp.
"I am a well-conditioned athlete," Wilfork said with a laugh.