When he steps between the hash marks on Sundays, it’s Vince Wilfork’s world and opposing offensive lineman are just living in it. At least that’s what you’d surmise based on his recent playoff performances against the Broncos and Ravens. It’s also an appropriate phrase for a player with Wilfork’s immense size and equally vast abilities. Wilfork has the versatility to line up at the end but on Super Bowl Sunday, it will most likely be Giants center, David Baas’ responsibility to keep Wilfork in front of him and out of the backfield. Although Wilfork is generously listed at 325, he’s likely bigger based on his appearance and after watching him gobble up opposing lineman, running backs and quarterbacks this season.
Wilfork is also deceptively quick and coordinated for a defensive tackle of his size. Against the Chargers in September, Wilfork picked off a Phillip Rivers pass at the line of scrimmage by tipping it to himself and then rumbling down the sideline for a 30-yard gain.
"They’ve got a load," New England Patriots defensive end Mark Anderson said about the Giants’ offensive line. "Quick. His size, he looks like he might be slow if you don’t know him, but once he gets on the field ...."via NJ.com
Not only does Wilfork have the capacity to shut down opposing rushing attacks but he also disrupts opposing offenses in passing situations by generating enough sheer power to bullrush through offensive lineman or to block them into the path of the quarterback. The Patriots secondary is among the league’s worse and their linebackers won’t apply the same suffocating pressure as the 49ers vaunted pass rush but Wilfork has an uncommon acumen for making big plays at crucial moments.
Against Baltimore, Wilfork blew up Ravens center Matt Birk on play after play and broke into the backfield for a crucial third down sack of Joe Flacco. Late in the fourth quarter, with the Ravens driving into Patriots territory Wilfork tackled running back Ray Lewis for a loss on third down and then singlehandedly pressured Joe Flacco into an incompletion on fourth down.
Conversely, Baas struggled against 49ers center Ray McDonald, whom Wilfork outweighs by 30-40 pounds. The entire Giants offensive line, including Baas struggled blocking in one-on-one situations and by night’s end, the back of Eli’s white and Blue Giants uniform had the appearance of a game-worn Tim Couch, Cleveland Browns throwback.
Containing Wilfork will be integral to the Giants keeping Eli Manning off his back and putting points on the scoreboard. The key to slowing down Wilfork will be to put Baas in situations where he has help blocking Wilfork and by using an extra blocker to pick up blitzers. Against the Atlanta Falcons, the Giants excelled in pass protection by using tight end Jake Ballard in protection on passing downs against the Falcons four-man front. >
Despite Wilfork’s presence the Giants shouldn’t surrender another six sacks like they did against San Francisco but Wilfork’s presence will repeatedly pose problems for the Giants 32nd ranked rushing offense. However, when Eli is given enough time to throw, the Giants passing attack is among the league’s elite and is able to offset their rushing weaknesses. Much of their success on Super Bowl Sunday depends on how well the Giants offensive line can scheme to prevent Wilfork from disrupting the timing between Eli and his receivers.