Sporting a 14-7 lead and having just recovered their second fumble of the first half, Buffalo's offense drove down inside the five-yard line and were ready to deal a demoralizing blow to the New England defense. Running back C.J. Spiller took the ball through the middle of the defensive line, but Wilfork and linebacker Brandon Spikes were anxiously awaiting his arrival.
The massive defensive tackle attacked the hole and met Spiller head on, he and Spikes combined to lay such a big hit on the Bills tailback that the ball popped loose. Wilfork immediately jumped at, and on, the opportunity lying on the field before him, and was able to recover possession for the Patriots.
The turnover did not keep Buffalo from taking a two-score lead, as they still did at the start of the second half. But Wilfork's big play was able to recoup some of the confidence and momentum the Patriots had lost during a tumultuous first half.
The Patriots went on to outscore the Bills 45-14 in the second half, closing out a blowout 52-28 win that has New England back to their usual status among the NFL's elite. And it can in large part be attributed to Wilfork.
The Patriots' Pro Bowl lineman played a big role in the crucial fumble during the first half. But his presence up front and his ability to swat down passes at the line of scrimmage were key to the overall success of the defense on the afternoon.
Wilfork consistently got his arms up in Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's passing lane, deflecting a pair of passes including a ball eventually intercepted by linebacker Jerod Mayo. The 30-year-old just couldn't be stopped or slowed by the Buffalo offensive line, and it showed as the Patriots completely shut down the Bills' rushing attack on Sunday.
The return of both Spiller and Fred Jackson to Buffalo's backfield was supposed to cause problems for the Patriots. Instead, Wilfork clogged holes up the middle all day long and New England's linebackers followed suit, holding the Bills to just 98 yards on 27 carries. The feat was impressive for the defense, especially considering that the Bills entered the week with the third best rushing attack in the league.
The physically imposing and intimidating presence that Wilfork brings to the Patriots' defense is one unrivaled by nearly any other defensive lineman in football. But add in his dedication, leadership and unrelenting desire to win, and Wilfork transforms into exactly the type of leader this defense needs.
His stout play in the middle of the Patriots defensive line may have played a major role in the team's ability to overcome their early deficit on Sunday, but Wilfork's importance to New England's defense continues to extend far beyond the impact of any one specific play.
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