Wilfork knows Mangold won't miss out

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Wilfork knows Mangold won't miss out

FOXBORO -- Nick Mangold sprained his ankle in Week 5's Monday night matchup between the Jets and Texans. With New York playing the Patriots two weeks later, Vince Wilfork wasn't upset by the idea of Mangold being sidelined for a few games.
"Trust me, I don't mind," the nose tackle grinned.
But the long-time Jets center didn't miss a step. Behind Mangold, New York ran over Indianapolis for 252 yards on 44 plays. The team averaged 5.7 yards per ground gain, with running back Shonn Greene racking up 161 personal yards and three touchdowns.
Wilfork pointed to Mangold as gatekeeper to the Jets' success.
"He's probably the best, I believe. I've been saying this ever since the guy's been a rookie. He's been pretty steady for them and it hasn't changed. Everything, it seems like, goes through him -- run game, he calls the plays on the line slides. He's the guy in charge. And that's how it should be because that's their bread and butter. When they need a play, if they're running the ball, it always seems to end up behind 74.
"He's a big-time player for them and I give him all the respect in the world, facing him numerous times," Wilfork continued. "But he's one of the players you wish you could have 11 guys like that with you on the field at all times because he just means so much to the team. I think they understand that."
That Wilfork understands is more important to the Patriots.
No issue there -- the nose tackle wasn't exaggerating his nod.
A near-identical situation came up last season when Mangold's status was uncertain before this very AFC East showdown. It was October; it was a bad ankle; the men in the middle volleyed compliments.
"He's a pain in the butt. He's got unbelievable technique, quickness. Just a real big man," Mangold had said of Wilfork.
"I'm pretty sure that they would love for him to play because I think he gives them a spark. It's absolutely a difference when he's in and when he's not in," Wilfork had said of Mangold.
The center played every snap in New York's 30-21 loss in 2011.
It's just not a game anyone can afford to sit out. Especially not this year, when every team in the AFC East is at 3-3 and first place is on the line.
"You don't want to miss these types of games. If I was on the same side or the opposite side of this man I would want to play in a game like this. It's a division game for a lead in the division, so there's a lot riding on this game for both sides. So if you're healthy enough to play, you have to expect everyone."
Wilfork has no doubt who he'll be lining up across from on Sunday.
"I'm pretty sure he'll be ready to go no matter what's being said, or what his injury may be. Trust me, I'm pretty sure he'll be there."

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

It came against a rookie quarterback. It came against an offense that averages a league-worst 15.0 points per game. It came against an offense that has fewer yards than any other. 

Still there are signs that Bill Belichick is pretty pleased with where his defense is after beating the Rams 26-10 on Sunday. One came on Wednesday when Patriots.com published its "Belichick Breakdown" for a closer look at a handful of plays from the team's most recent win.

Belichick called his team's third-and-eight stop with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter "probably one of the best good, team defensive plays we've had all year."

The Patriots show a five-man front, but linebacker Kyle Van Noy feigns a rush only to drop into coverage.

"Van Noy in here does a good job on the rush," Belichick said, "and also on the coverage on the back. Just good team defense. Good pass coverage down the field. The quarterback really doesn't end up having a lot of time, but there's no one to throw it to right away."

Belichick noted that all four rushers -- Chris Long, Trey Flowers, Dont'a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich -- all are able to pressure Jared Goff on the play. Combined with strong coverage in the secondary, the Rams nver really had a chance.

Belichick said it looked like a "tidal wave" of defenders bearing down on the quarterback.

"Long wins here . . . on the inside spin," Belichick said, "and Trey Flowers and Hightower both win on the little twist game inside. Then that's Rob with good speed-to-power on [Rams tackle Rob] Havenstein on the outside. Four good rushers. Plus a fifth guy...Van Noy getting that two-for-one on the guard and the back.

"Good team defense. That's great to see. A lot of hard work an execution on the practice field to make that happen."

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

FOXBORO -- They sounded like a couple of old pals. 

First it was Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who spoke of Ravens coach John Harbaugh during a conference call like one of his favorite fellow lacrosse dads.

"John and I saw a game a couple of years ago, a [Johns] Hopkins vs. Maryland game," Belichick said, adding that Harbaugh's love for the sport is just starting to blossom. "Yeah, I think John is seeing the light."

Belichick added that the two might be closer if they weren't competing so often, both in-season on the field and for free agents in the offseason. 

"As you know, we get into a situation like we’re in now where they have a good team, we have a good team, we’re playing a big game on Monday night," Belichick said. "Both teams are going to do everything they can to compete as hard as they can on Monday night. That’s what it is and that’s what we all signed up for. We all know that’s a part of it.

"When we’re not going head-to-head, which isn’t very often because we compete against each other in the offseason, we compete against each other to build our team and so forth, it just puts things in a little bit of a different situation."

During his press conference with reporters on Wednesday, Harbaugh echoed Belichick's sentiments. Belichick was famously one of Harbaugh's biggest supporters earlier in his career, calling the Ravens on Harbaugh's behalf when the franchise was looking for a new head coach. And if only they weren't so frequently competing against each other, they might be even closer, Harbaugh indicated. 

"I feel like we have a good relationship," Harbaugh said. "Like you said, we're probably not socializing that much, but I don't know how many coaches really do. We're all so busy. I'll see him or any coach at the Combine or at the owner's meetings, and we have a chance to talk. It's always good. I have a ton of respect for him. I really like him as a person. I think he's a great coach -- greatest coach of this generation. He's earned that title.

"And I study him. I've always studied him. I've always studied coach Belichick from when I first met him when I was an assistant at the University of Cincinnati, and he came in and just was great to be around.  [We have a] similar background with the special teams and that sort of thing. All of that kind of goes out the window when you compete against one another. It's like anything else, you want to win. I'm sure he feels the same way."

The recent history between their respective franchises is rife with emotion: There was Baltimore's irate reaction to Belichick's unusual formations in the AFC Divisional Round two seasons ago; there was the Ravens' supposed involvement in sparking Deflategate; and there was Harbaugh's subsequent denial. But Belichick and Harbaugh made it sound on Wednesday as if all's good between them.