Wilfork in the middle of Patriots' improving defense

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Wilfork in the middle of Patriots' improving defense

FOXBORO -- They certainly aren't the 1985 Bears. And they have a long way to go to compare to the Patriots of the early aughts. But things are starting to turn for New England's defense.

In the last two weeks, in wins over the Jets and Colts, the Patriots have forced nine turnovers. Three have gone for touchdowns, including Steve Gregory's scoop-and-score from 32 yards out on Thanksgiving.

It may not be a shut-down unit, but the Patriots have won in recent weeks thanks in part to its defense, not despite it. Count Vince Wilfork among those encouraged by his team's improvement on that side of the ball.

"That's our goal," Wilfork said. "Each week we say we wanna get better as a unit. Over the past couple weeks you've seen a lot of guys make plays for this football team. Right now it's a one-game season. You really have to buckle down, start playing our best football. We've seen that we can play very well when we execute well. I think everybody individually is stepping their game up to help this ball club."

As it's been for the better part of the last decade, Wilfork has led the way when it comes to players elevating their games. His numbers don't do his dominance justice (6 tackles in the last two games combined), but his presence in the middle of the Patriots defensive line has been immense.

In the second quarter, he twice handled double teams to help the Patriots stop the Jets on third- and fourth-and-short plays, the latter resulting in a fumble. On Gregory's touchdown scamper, Wilfork was the one who shoved Jets guard Brandon Moore into quarterback Mark Sanchez to knock the ball loose. In New England's third-quarter goal-line stand against the Jets on Thanksgiving, he blew up the hole and allowed Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo to make the stop on Shonn Greene.

Wilfork also played well against Indianapolis, helping pressure Andrew Luck into throwing an interception to new cornerback Aqib Talib, which was returned for a touchdown.

Raising his level of play late in the season is something Wilfork has always taken pride in.

"My whole career -- high school, college -- it seems like the longer the season goes, the better I play," Wilfork said. "Nine years now with the Patriots, same thing. I just prepare well. Sometimes I make some adjustments in games in weeks, sometimes I don't make plays, sometimes I make a lot of plays. But my thing is to be the best I can be for my team. Whether that's making one tackle or that's making 10 tackles. I really don't care about that. My goal is always do what I do best and do what I can to help this ball club.

"Sometimes on the stat sheet it doesn't show, but as long as my teammates are making plays, and some things we put in as a defense, sometimes it's not meant for me to make plays. But as long as we winning and I'm playing well, I'm satisfied with that."

If the rest of the Patriots defense can keep pace with its big man in the middle, they should be in good shape for the last quarter of the season. The quest for continued progress resumes on Sunday against the Dolphins, with a shot at a division title on the line.

"Our goal is to get better, be better, especially now," Wilfork said. "Play our best football. We haven't played our best yet. We still waiting for our best. Right now it's gonna be like a one game season from here on out. We gonna need everybody to be at their best."

If history's any indication, Wilfork will be.

McDaniels: 'Wouldn't surprise me' if Belichick coached into his 70s

McDaniels: 'Wouldn't surprise me' if Belichick coached into his 70s

When will Bill Belichick retire? The Patriots coach is 64 years old, and he's been on record saying that he won't be coaching into his 70s like former Bills head coach Marv Levy. But it sure seems like Belichick has plenty of energy to stay at the job for some time, and the results, you may have noticed, have been pretty good. 

MORE FROM McDANIELS: 'Don't know' who'll play quarterback Sunday

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels joined WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show on Monday morning, and he was asked about how much longer his boss might work. Would McDaniels be surprised if Belichick coached into his 70s despite what he said on NFL Network's A Football Life documentary back in 2009?

"It wouldn't surprise me," McDaniels said. "I know Bill loves football. His drive and his passion for the game and to try to do everything we can to prepare our team to win each week, I haven't seen one change in it. It's a great privilege to coach for him. He certainly kind of sets the tone for us. I don't see any difference in that since when I first started here. I look forward to coaching for him for as long as he'll let me."

Some have speculated that McDaniels could be the next head coach of the Patriots whenever Belichick decides to hang up his whistle. The 40-year-old has been up for head coaching positions since he's returned for his second stint in New England, but he's still with the organization that gave him his first NFL job in 2001. 

McDaniels, who left to be the head coach of the Broncos in 2009 and 2010, was asked if he values the offensive coordinator job with the Patriots more than a head coaching opportunity that might not be the perfect fit.

"I love where I'm at," McDaniels said. "I've said before I think we all have aspirations to grow and get better and improve and potentially move up and what have you. Who knows? Maybe that day happens, maybe it doesn't. But I know this: I'm really thankful to have the opprtunity that I have to coach the players we have here and to work underneath Bill and Robert [Kraft] and the Kraft family. It's a privilege here. I feel like I have one of the best jobs in the world. Just thankful that I have an opportunity to come here and do it each week."

Pierce to play one more season with Clippers, then retire

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Pierce to play one more season with Clippers, then retire

It's official: Paul Pierce will play one more season -- but only one more season -- in the NBA.

The former Celtics star announced today in a video post on The Players Tribune site that he will return to the Clippers in 2016-17, then will retire at the end of the year.

"[I’ve] got one more ride left," said Pierce. "One more season. One more opportunity . . . With the Clippers, in the city where I grew up, I feel like I have that opportunity on a great team. We’re hungry. We want to win a championship."