In big moments, Wilfork's the biggest

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In big moments, Wilfork's the biggest

FOXBORO -- The numbers were good, but they don't shoot out. Six tackles. One sack. One quarterback hit. It's what you'd expect from a defensive captain, and leader, of Vince Wilfork's caliber.
The numbers, however, don't come close to describing how dominant Wilfork was in Sunday's 23-20 victory over the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game. Driving the pocket, making stops in the backfield, taking over the line of scrimmage . . . he was a force Baltimore couldn't handle.
And he saved his best for (almost the) last: Back-to-back plays when Baltimore was driving with less than three minutes to go in the game. First he stuffed Ray Rice for a three-yard loss on third-and-3 from the Pats' 30, then he pressured Joe Flacco into a wild, incomplete throw on the next play, giving New England the ball with a chance to run out the clock.
Had Tom Brady and the offense not gone three-and-out, which allowed the Ravens one last (and nearly successful) drive, Wilfork would be remembered today as the game-clincher.
But Bill Belichick will remember.
"I thought Vince had a lot of big plays today," said the coach, and he wasn't surprised.
"Vince is obviously our most experienced player and he's been a great leader, great captain all year," he said. "His leadership has been tremendous."
And like a leader, Wilfork was willing -- nay, eager -- to share the credit.
"It was just a great defensive play from all eleven - not just myself," he said.
On the third-dpwn play, though, it was just himself.
"I think to be honest with you . . . the Ravens just cut me loose," Wilfork said. "I don't know. I'm always taught when someone doesn't block you, it's a set up and all. I don't know if they just missed a block or it was a setup block and I just beat it. I don't know. I'm going to have to watch the film and see it.
"Critical plays like that, you just have to take advantage. At that split second, the only thing I saw was: Did Rice have the ball? If it was a setup block, they . . . didn't get me."
In the end, the Ravens didn't get the Patriots. Wilfork wasn't surprised about that, either.
"There's no doubt in my mind, this team will finish ball games," he said of the Patriots. "They will fight, no matter what the outcome may be. This team is a bunch of warriors. They're a bunch of fighters, coaches and everybody, this whole organization is just a special group of guys and I love playing for guys like this."
Feeling's mutual, Vince.

Patriots sign TE Rob Housler to future contract

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Patriots sign TE Rob Housler to future contract

FOXBORO -- The Patriots have signed free-agent tight end Rob Housler to a future contract. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound target last played for the Bears but was released at the end of training camp.

Housler won't be eligible to participate with the Patriots during the postseason, but he will be available for the offseason program and training camp leading up to the 2017 campaign. 

Housler taken in the third round by the Cardinals with the 69th overall selection in 2011. In 65 career games, he has 109 catches for 1,166 yards and one touchdown. 

The Patriots may have been intrigued by Housler's skill set last summer when he caught one pass for 52 yards -- making two Patriots defenders miss in the process -- during a preseason game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots and Bears held joint training camp practices in August that would have given Patriots coaches and scouts a closer look at everything Housler has to offer as a player. 

Housler was one of the better athletes at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2011, running a 4.55-second 40-yard dash (fastest among tight ends), posting a 6.9-second three-cone drill, and recording a 37-inch vertical leap.

Bill Belichick and his staff hit big on a future-contract signing two years ago when a running back with a significant injury history was available to scoop up at the behest of then-assistant to the coaching staff Michael Lombardi. Since then, the Patriots still have never lost with Dion Lewis in uniform.