Vince Wilfork gives Pats money’s worth

FOXBORO —  If it seemed like Vince Wilfork played every snap in Sunday night’s game against the Packers, it’s because he practically did. With Green Bay possessing the ball for more than 40 minutes and the Patriots’ defensive line depleted by injury, No. 75 barely got a breather. He was on the field for 75 of 84 Packer snaps.

“I feel I can play however long the coach needs me to play,” Wilfork said yesterday. “Conditioning has never been an issue for me. That’s something I take pride in — being able to go the long haul.”

In the face of constant double teams, Wilfork finished with six tackles and recovered a fumble that ended the game as the Patriots’ defense stopped the Packers deep in New England territory in the closing seconds.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick called Wilfork’s game “probably one of the best he’s played.”

Wilfork, who signed a five-year, $40-million contract in the offseason, is having another strong year and ranks second among defensive linemen in fan Pro Bowl voting.

Wilfork has played all along the defensive line this season, with starts at left tackle, nose tackle, left end and right end, you name it.

“He has good skills to rush the passer, to play the run, to stunt, to play on tackle, play on the guard, play in the center — he’s done all of those throughout the course of his career,” Belichick said. “He’s certainly done all of them this year as well, so he’s been a versatile guy for us and he’s also been a productive player. We’ve asked him to play more in recent games in terms of the number of snaps in all situations and he’s come through with some really outstanding performances the last couple of weeks.”

Wilfork, who has 73 tackles and a pair of quarterback hits on the year, said he enjoys playing different positions.

“It’s fun,” he said. “It’s very fun, but at the same time it’s challenging. Bill has confidence in me going out and playing it. It gets challenging, but I love challenges. I think for me to go out and play different positions, it just shows the young guys that if you commit to what you’re doing, you’ll be OK.”

The Patriots extended their winning streak to six games by beating the Packers, but one of Wilfork’s season-long streaks — one he takes great pride in — came to an end. Through the first 13 games of the season, Wilfork had not committed a penalty. He was called for two infractions Sunday night.

The first was an offside call in the second quarter. The other was a facemask in the third. Both came during Green Bay scoring drives.

“The offsides was a bonehead penalty,” Wilfork said. “And the facemask, I was kind of caught between a rock and a hard spot right there, but it wasn’t anything intentional that I would try to grab a facemask. Just reaching out and with the running back lowering his head, I got a part of it. That’s one thing I try to strive for — no penalties. And I got two in one game. I was pretty upset about that. I was trying to go the whole season without one, and obviously it didn’t end up that way, but as long as I end up with two, I’m fine.”

The Patriots were without three defensive linemen — Ron Brace, Mike Wright and Myron Pryor — for last week’s game, and Brandon Deaderick suffered a shoulder injury in the first quarter.

That meant a lot of Wilfork, Gerard Warren and Kyle Love. Linebacker Jerod Mayo was not surprised by Wilfork’s endurance.

“He’s a great athlete,” Mayo said. “He can play all day. That’s what makes him so valuable to this team.” As the Patriots prepare for Sunday’s game against the resurgent Buffalo Bills, they were again without Wright (concussion) and Pryor (back) for yesterday’s practice. Deaderick did not participate, either. Brace, however, did return as a limited participant.

The Bills started 0-8, but they put up 30 points on the Patriots in a 38-30 loss in Week 3. The 30 points were the second-most scored against New England this season. The Browns scored 34 in a 20-point blowout of the Pats in early November. That game, in Wilfork’s opinion, was the turning point of the year for the Patriots.

“Cleveland was a wakeup call for us,” said Wilfork, a defensive captain. “We had a gut check, and I think we came together as a team and started putting more emphasis on the little things. It’s all about the little things because the little things take care of the big things in the end.”

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