FOXBOUROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Vince Wilfork says the New England Patriots will have more on their minds Sunday than clinching their sixth straight AFC East title when they host the Miami Dolphins.
“For the majority of the time, we’ve been pretty successful around here doing it the right way, and it can’t stop this week,” the veteran nose tackle said Friday. “We’re going to have to continue to build, continue to play better football. The more football we play the better we have to get if we want to be a special team.
“And it starts this week against the division opponent, an opponent that beat us earlier this year. … Hopefully we’ll be ready to go.”
Way back in Week 1, the Patriots jumped to a 20-10 halftime lead at Miami, then went flat and allowed 23 unanswered points in the second half, losing 33-20.
The Patriots, who have won eight of their last nine to shake off a 2-2 start, have not been swept by a division opponent since way back in 2000, Bill Belichick’s first year as the coach. So, it has never happened to Tom Brady.
Nor Wilfork, who downplayed the revenge angle. “It’s another game for us,” he said. “The important part is (this) being the next game and being a division opponent. They did beat us the first time around, but I don’t think the first game will have anything to do with the second game. I think the team that executes well will walk out with a ‘W.'”
Still, it would seem this game means a bit more than another divisional game. Faces have changed on the teams since that opener, but the bulk of the Patriots’ room was there for the loss.
“Any time another team beats you, you just want to play better than you did the first time,” defensive end Rob Ninkovich said earlier in the week. “It’s a different time now. It’s a different part of the year.”
Running back LeGarrette Blount, who was just starting what turned out to be his brief stay in Pittsburgh on opening week, is very much a part of things now. He, too, downplayed the revenge factor.
“No. They just want to go out there and beat them. They just want to go out here and win. No matter what happened in the beginning of the season, they just want to go out here and win the game – and that’s the mentality of everybody in the locker room right now.”
Having not played a lot in Pittsburgh, Blount is facing the stretch run fresher than most running backs at this time of year, something that shouldn’t be unnoticed when the Patriots are about to face a Miami defense that is 22nd in the NFL against the run.
“I feel good. I feel real good,” said Blount, who likes running in cold weather because he feel he’s harder to tackle when it’s cold. “There’s not as lot of running backs that feel at their best at this point in the season but I feel close to it.”