Vince Wilfork Shows He’s Most Valuable Member of Patriots’ Defense, Must Remain Dominant in Super Bowl

Vince Wilfork Shows He's Most Valuable Member of Patriots' Defense, Must Remain Dominant in Super BowlDefensive lineman Vince Wilfork proved this week he is the most valuable member of the Patriots' defense, and he can raise the level of the whole unit by continuing to establish his dominance.

Wilfork thrashed the Ravens' offensive line in the AFC Championship, and he'll give the Patriots a legitimate chance to contain the Giants' hot offense with a similar performance in the Super Bowl.

Wilfork's performance was impressive in the immediate aftermath of Sunday's victory, and he looked even more imposing after running through the film. The hulking lineman, who split his reps between nose tackle and left defensive end, positively affected 15 plays in the Patriots' favor, either with his one sack, three tackles for loss or a drive through his block that collapsed the pocket or forced quarterback Joe Flacco to scramble.

Wilfork was double-teamed 24 times, and he beat five of them. He also beat nine single teams and one triple team (the only one he faced). And even though he didn't beat 19 double teams — not that there's much wrong with that — the fact that the Ravens had to use an additional blocker on him freed up space for others such as defensive end Brandon Deaderick, linebacker Mark Anderson and defensive tackle Kyle Love.

Aside from the double teams, the Ravens showed Wilfork respect by only running at him five times on 27 designed rushes.

Wilfork got off to a hot start, blowing up four of the Ravens' first nine plays, and was the best player on the field right through to the finish. On the final two plays of the Ravens' second-to-last series, he dropped running back Ray Rice for a three-yard loss to force Baltimore to go for it on fourth down, when Wilfork's pressure caused Flacco to throw it away.

After the game, Wilfork's teammates said they were inspired by his performance, both during the game and the week's preparation. Numerous defensive players said they saw his drive and leadership throughout their string of practices, and they wanted to raise their games because of it.

Because the Patriots don't blitz very often, the pressure they generate up front sets the tone for the rest of the play. Wilfork is the most dominant defensive lineman they've got, and when he's at the top of his game, he can create plays for himself and others. Plus, his push up front opens gaps for linebackers Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes to penetrate.

Wilfork's value goes beyond himself, and he has shown that over the course of another tremendous season. With an effort like he had Sunday, the Patriots' defense will remain on the upswing.

Have a question for Jeff Howe? Send it to him via Twitter at @jeffphowe or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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