Wilfork: Sideline adjustments will be key against Niners

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Wilfork: Sideline adjustments will be key against Niners

FOXBORO -- Don't be surprised on Sunday to see a lot of this: Vince Wilfork and the rest of the Patriots defensive line on the sideline, huddled on a bench and listening to defensive coordinator Matt Patricia bark instructions, or with Bill Belichick crouched in front of them diagramming what should happen on the next series. Same for every defensive positional group.

It's a short week for the Patriots. After Monday night's game, they have one less day of preparation time than they normally might, and because of the number of different formations employed by the Niners, it will be difficult to prepare for all of them by kickoff on Sunday night.

That's why Wilfork believes making the correct sideline adjustments will be critical. The Patriots are going to have to learn on the fly against San Francisco's myriad offensive looks.

"This week is going to be very, very crucial for us getting back to the sidelines every series to go over things they're doing differently," Wilfork said. "It's impossible to try to cover everything they do because they do a bunch of things -- two-back formations, three-back, sometimes four guys. Four tight ends. It's a lot of work. We have to prepare well and make a sideline adjustment. It's going to be crucial for us this week."

Aside from the number of formations the Niners use, they change personnel and make frequent substitutions, which adds another layer for which New England must prepare.

"When you turn on the film, you see a bunch of formations, different numbers come in and out," Wilfork said. "They change by the play, every other play, people coming in, running in and off the field. It's going to be some work. This week's going to be very, very crucial for us on sideline adjustments. Probably biggest one of the year so we'll have to do a good job on sideline adjustments and in practice also."

One player Wilfork expects to be on the field and the focal point of those unusual multi-back sets: his old college teammate, Niners running back Frank Gore.

In his eighth year in the league, Gore is over the 1000-yard mark for the sixth time and averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He's the No. 1 reason San Francisco has the second best rushing attack in the league at 167.8 yards per game.

"Frank is Frank," said Wilfork, who played with Gore for three years at the University of Miami. "Ever since I played with him till now. Still running the ball hard. He's one of those backs. He's an old school back. He could care less running sideline to sideline. He'd rather duck his head and get the hard 2, 3, 4 yards, and he's pretty shifty."

Then there's new Niners quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, who's also a threat to run out of the backfield. Wilfork lumped Kaepernick with the new era of NFL quarterbacks -- like Weashington's Robert Griffin III -- who can run and throw with accuracy. Though a headache for a defensive tackle, Wilfork admitted that they're likely "the future" of the position.

"I get tired of chasing quarterbacks around," Wilfork said. "Chase running backs and then you have to worry about the quarterback's rush lanes and things like that. You can't set a front to a certain way. There are certain ways you have to play those guys and you have to be very cautious of how you play them. We're gonna have a test this week, I'll tell you that."

Wilfork said (a little sheepishly) that the Niners offense may have even more varied sets than the Patriots.

"We don't have more than three running backs in at a time," he said. "We don't have lineman in the backfield all the time. Like I said, these guys run some plays like, man, you can give an offensive lineman the ball. You never know. You can't be surprised what they show you because they show you so many things, and I'm pretty sure they have a lot more. So we're going to expect the kitchen sink."

When they get it, they'll head back to the sideline, talk it out, and hope that they're ready for whatever comes next.

WNBA: Sylvia Fowles' 21 points, 13 rebounds lead Lynx past Sun, 80-78

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WNBA: Sylvia Fowles' 21 points, 13 rebounds lead Lynx past Sun, 80-78

SAINT PAUL, Minn. - Sylvia Fowles had 21 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks to help the Minnesota Lynx beat the Connecticut Sun 80-78 on Tuesday night.

Seimone Augustus added 16 points, including nine in the third quarter, for the Lynx (4-0).

Morgan Tuck hit a 3-pointer from the wing to pull Connecticut to 80-78 with 19.8 seconds left and Lindsay Whalen missed two free throws at the other end. After a timeout, Connecticut worked the ball around but a jump ball was called with 2.2 seconds left. The Sun gained possession but weren't able to get off a shot.

Maya Moore added 12 points, six rebounds and five assists for Minnesota, which is ranked second in the AP power poll. Rebekkah Brunson grabbed seven rebounds to move into fourth on the all-time WNBA list.

Jasmine Thomas made a career-high five 3-pointers and scored 18 points for 11th-ranked Connecticut (0-3). Jonquel Jones added 16 points and Tuck finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Minnesota has won 21 straight games in the month of May since 2012.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: LeBron in foul trouble

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Halftime stars, studs and duds: LeBron in foul trouble

CLEVELAND – Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Game 4 between Boston and Cleveland in which the Celtics have a 57-47 halftime lead.

 

STARS

Avery Bradley

His aggressiveness at both ends of the floor has been key to Boston’s strong first half showing. He has 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting.

Kyrie Irving

With LeBron James in major foul trouble – he had four personal fouls in the first half – Irving was charged with picking up the slack, scoring 12 of his 18 points in the second quarter.

 

STUDS

Jae Crowder

He had the hot hand at the start of the game, and has been solid at both ends of the floor. He had 13 points on 4-for-5 shooting with four rebounds and three assists.

Kevin Love

He continues to get great looks from 3-point range, but the Celtics did a better job of limiting his long-range scoring opportunities. He had 10 points along with seven rebounds and three assists.

Kelly Olynyk

Making his first-ever playoff start, Olynyk had a solid half with eight points, four rebounds and three assists.

 

DUDS

LeBron James

He was 5-for-9 from the field with 10 points in the first half, but spent a large chunk on the bench after being whistled for his fourth personal foul with 6:46 to play in the half.