Wilfork: 'It's a tough pill to swallow'

Wilfork: 'It's a tough pill to swallow'
January 21, 2013, 6:01 am
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FOXBORO -- Vince Wilfork can be a sore loser. 
More than once the Patriots nose tackle has barreled out the back door rather than deal with the media. Sometimes, when he does talk after a loss, he simply hurls non-answers over a wall of mulishness: 'They made more plays than we did.'   
Sunday night was different. 
Wilfork stood up behind the podium after New England's 28-13 AFC Championship loss to the Ravens. He opened himself up to the questions that were due. With the biggest letdown of the 2012 season looming above, Wilfork let it settle onto his shoulders. 
"When you lose in this game, its tough, because you put so much into it all year: the offseason, the practice, the conditioning, the weight lifting, everything, time away from your family, training camp where you dont see your family but a little bit of the time. 
"So you put a lot into it, so for it to come to an end like this, it hurts. It does hurt, but it happens, you know? We cant do anything now but to get better from this. Its a tough pill to swallow."
The Patriots defense allowed 356 total yards to Baltimore. Quarterback Joe Flacco completed 21 of 36 passes for 240 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He completed four passes of 22 or more yards. The Ravens were a perfect 4-for-4 in the red zone. 
Sure, some injuries played a part. Starting defensive tackle Kyle Love left with a knee injury and left cornerback Aqib Talib was sidelined after two series after hurting his thigh. A third starter, rookie defensive end Chandler Jones, played only in goal line situations as he has a bad ankle. 
But what about that 'Next Man Up' gospel the Patriots preach? Talib's absence can't account for 15 unanswered points after the break, can it? 
Wilfork credited some of the defense's second half struggles to Baltimore coming back up-tempo and with some different personnel. He and his teammates didn't adjust, he said. 
"I think at times we had a pretty decent rush and at times we didn't. I don't think we hit them enough. I don't think we pressured them enough."
Not good enough all around. The Patriots defense bent, and bent, and finally broke. And this unit is better than last year's.  
2011 Yards surrendered per game: 411.1 2012 Yards surrendered per game: 373.3.
2011 Passing yards surrendered per game: 293.9 2012 Passing yards surrendered per game: 271.4
2011 Rushing yards surrendered per game: 117.1 2012 Rushing yards surrendered per game: 101.9
2011 Points allowed per game: 21.4 2012 Points allowed per game: 20.7
New England improved, however slightly, in every category of team defense. To fall shorter than last season's Super Bowl appearance had to be crushing. 
Yet Wilfork was surprisingly buoyant. The departure did not escape him: "Im pretty bummed right now. I might not seem like it, but I am."
Maybe the anger can't compete with the playoffs' finality. 
During the regular season, a loss means going back to the war room to reconfigure the battle plan. Frustration is channeled into problem solving; there is a chance to rebound. 
But this Sunday marked the end of it all. The Patriots will have to simmer in their heartbreak and then let it go. There is no next fight. 
Wilfork has been around long enough to know. 
"Taking a loss like this kind of makes you question how long you want to play. But it's just the moment; Ill get over it," Wilfork said. "It's tough, but Ill get over it after the Super Bowl and go through my little spells. My wife will get pissed off at me and throw things at me and Ill get over it and Ill be back to playing and wanting to play, cant wait for the season to start. 
"I love football. I love my teammates. I love the organization, the coaches. I think we have what it takes to be a championship team. When I dont feel that way anymore, Ill call it quits. But I feel good about this team, so Im looking forward to next year and getting this thing rolling again and starting from ground zero and moving forward and trying to get it done the right way."