Pats 'D' not taking Rodgers, Snelling for granted

Pats 'D' not taking Rodgers, Snelling for granted
September 26, 2013, 3:45 pm
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FOXBORO -- Vince Wilfork knows that he's not preparing for a 1-2 football team. He's preparing for an Atlanta Falcons team that has plenty of weapons.

One of those weapons is Steven Jackson. And Wilfork also knows that he's not preparing for him.

Jackson is expected to miss Sunday night's game against the Patriots with a hamstring injury that he suffered early in Week 2, which reportedly will keep him sidelined until Week 7.

As crazy as it might seem, the Patriots' nose tackle isn't happy that he won't run into Jackson in Atlanta.

"I always wanna play the best, because I never wanna give people an excuse," said Wilfork after Thursday's practice at Gillette Stadium. "That's just me. I always wanna be playing against the best at all times. Obviously it's not up me, people get hurt. That's the nature of the game. But for Jackson to be down, that's tough for them because he's a big, solid runner. He's a big back that can tote the load. But trust me, the other backs they have too now, there's no slouch there. They're some tough runners, and I think everybody saw last week against Miami how they run the ball pretty good, so I expect for them to do a little bit more running. Why fix something if it's not broke?"

The Falcons' passing attack is obviously their most dangerous weapon. But even without Jackson, New England isn't going to sleep on Atlanta's run game.

"[Jacquizz] Rodgers is a really good back, and [Jason] Snelling gives them a little change up with his size and downhill," said Patriots safety Devin McCourty on Thursday. "If you watch Rodgers on tape, he's done a really good job. He has very good feet, he can make guys miss. So, for us, it's the same. If they hand the ball off, we've got to surround him and get the guy on the ground. We can't just go into the game and say, 'No Steven Jackson, no running game.' It's the NFL. That wouldn't work."

"I don't care who they put back there," said Wilfork. "When I think about Atlanta, I always think about the running game, how they mix it in with flashes in the passing game. And now with Julio [Jones] and Roddy White and Tony [Gonzalez]. Weapons everywhere.

"When you're able to go into a game and run the ball and play-action pass and screens and get down the field and having a tight end that can catch balls in the end zone, when you have to defend that, it's very tough for a defense," added Wilfork. "And right now, it's a challenge for us."

Speaking of play-action pass, there's no question that Atlanta can make its passing attack even more dangerous when its run game is working. So the Patriots have to figure out a way to keep them honest.

"It's huge," said McCourty. "Anytime when a team play actions, it's a chance we can lose some guys at the linebacker position, just to take care of the run.

"I can't get caught, me or Steve [Gregory], or if Duron [Harmon] is in the game, we can't get caught biting down on the run, especially with the threats they have on the outside."

"You have to stop the run game," said Wilfork. "If you can slow the run game down, the play-action pass really doesn't do anything. But that's going to be tough, because they run the ball very well. When they do decide to run the ball, they run it well. And they have the backs, they have the offensive line, they have everything. When they throw the ball, they have everybody in the passing game.

"It's just a perfect offense," added Wilfork. "When they're executing, and when they're firing, it's tough to stop them. So, our job is going to be very tough, but I believe we can get it done."