In the run-up to Monday Night Football this week, there was a lot of talk about the chance for Patriots-Texans to be a showcase. In front of a national audience, one of the best defensive players in the NFL was afforded a chance to show the football-watching world just how vital he is to his team’s long-term success. If the AFC powerhouse to which he belonged was going to make a run, he’d certainly be part of it, and that run would start in Foxboro.
That’s pretty much how things played out. The only difference is that the player in question wasn’t the one most people would have guessed. Vince Wilfork, at age 31 and in his ninth season in New England, was absolutely dominant against Houston on Monday. With Wilfork in the middle of the Patriots’ defense, the Texans’ revered running game was rendered useless, and the 325-pounder even added his 15th career sack with a strip of Matt Schaub.
Wilfork’s impact is nothing new. For a while now he’s been the most impactful member of the New England defense, and he’s got more than a few Pro Bowl trips to show for it. Not often, though, does he have a game that causes everyone to take notice. What came as a surprise when Wilfork sacked Schaub wasn’t that it happened, but that it had only happened 14 times before. The whole thing — Wilfork’s game and the relative lack of stats — was enough to start a Twitter conversation (credit to ESPN The Magazine’s Kevin Van Valkenburg for starting it) about Wilfork’s chances at getting to Canton, and, for that matter, the chances for any of the players who’ve had careers that mirror his.