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The Patriots just cannot catch a break this season. On Sunday night against the Atlanta Falcons, New England’s star defensive tackle, Vince Wilfork, suffered a torn Achilles in his right foot and will likely be out for the rest of the season.
Despite a 4-0 start, the Patriots season has been plagued by injuries, especially on offense. However, we were all anticipating the return of Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola to help this struggling offense, and all seemed to be headed in the right direction. Until the first quarter of Sunday night’s game, that is.
In the first quarter of the game, Wilfork was carted off the field with an apparent ankle injury. It was later reported in the Boston Globe that Wilfork had a torn Achilles’ tendon in his right foot. Wilfork was seen walking off the field in a walking boot and according to league sources, Wilfork will most likely be placed on season-ending injured reserve. Coach Bill Belichick also confirmed, “It doesn’t look too good for Vince.”
Wilfork has been a major component of the Patriot’s defense and one of the best players in his position. As the defensive captain of this team for years, Wilfork has provided consistency and leadership in his position. Having spent ten seasons with the team, Wilfork has become one of the best and durable defensive tackles in the league, earning himself multiple Pro Bowl appearances and the reputation of being one of the best against the run.
Just to put into perspective how important Wilfork is to the defense, with him on the field over the past five years, the Patriots allowed 4.1 yards per rush, ninth-best in the league, but without Wilfork, the Patriots ranked last in yards per rush allowed with 5.0. This speaks volumes to the impact Wilfork has against the run game.
Just when it seemed the defense was improving and playing well together as a unit, the Wilfork injury serves as a major blow to the success of the defense. The Patriots seemed to be finally figuring things out in the secondary (which was their Achilles heel – too soon?), especially with Aqib Talib playing well, and it seemed the defense was becoming a complete unit. But this, of course, is the injury prone 2013 Patriots we are talking about.
As the heart and soul of the Patriots defense, Wilfork will be very hard to replace. The injury to Wilfork will be a challenge to absorb by the defense, particularly with the position lacking depth. Wilfork was replaced by rookie Joe Vellano, who did manage a sack of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, but otherwise the Patriots are extremely thin in that position. However, this is a next-man-up type of league, and Belichick will figure things out. Wilfork will not be easily replaced, but as long as everyone works a little harder and does their job, the defense should be okay.
A great solution would have been to bring back Richard Seymour, but he has made it clear that there is “no way” he would be a member of the Patriots again. Well, there goes that theory.