Boone, 49ers have hands full with Wilfork

Boone, 49ers have hands full with Wilfork
December 14, 2012, 2:45 pm
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Jim Harbaugh: “He’s (Vince Wilfork) a heck of a player, and has a great understanding of the game.” (USA TODAY IMAGES) 

SANTA CLARA – Patriots tackle Vince Wilfork might not have the sexy statistics of, say, an Aldon Smith. But his value to the New England defense was on full display during Monday night’s 42-14 thrashing of the Houston Texans.

Wilfork anchored a defensive line that held star running back Arian Foster to just 46 yards on 15 attempts, for an average of 3.1 yards-per-carry. That includes a 15-yard scamper, and some quick math says Foster had just 31 yards in his other 14 carries combined. The 6-2, 325-pound Wilfork finished with four tackles, one for a loss, and one sack – just his second of the season.

While Wilfork’s stats don’t leap off the page, Greg Roman, the 49ers’ offensive coordinator, knows how valuable the nine-year pro is to his team.

“Their front seven is as stout as I’ve seen and it starts with the big guy, Wilfork, who’s a tremendous athlete for his size,” Roman said on Wednesday. “I think everybody got to see him on display last week against the Texans.”

“He’s a heck of a player, and has a great understanding of the game,” Jim Harbaugh said. “I think the big thing is how well they play together as a defensive line.”

Third-year lineman Alex Boone will play the role of trying to nullify Wilfork to protect the quarterback and create room for running backs Frank Gore and LaMichael James. Boone knows he’ll have his hands full.

“It will be a challenge,” Boone said. “He’s quick off the ball, he’s explosive for a big guy, and I think he’s strong. It’s just going to come down to fundamentals with him, and really just knowing it’s going to be a full day.”

Would Boone compare Wilfolk to anyone he’s seen so far in his brief career?

“I want to say he’s like an Isaac [Sopoaga]. He’s big, and you look at him and know he’s big, but you don’t think he’s going to be quick, but then he turns out to be quick,” Boone said. “Strong, good movement, and if you give him a weakness I think he’ll capitalize on it.”

While Roman and Boone were quick to praise Wilfork’s skills, WIlfork was just as complimentary towards San Francisco, as the two second-seeded clubs prepare for their Sunday night showdown at Gillette Stadium in front of a national audience.

In fact, Wilfork sounded genuinely sincere in an interview on Wednesday that was posted to the Patriots’ website, when he spoke with New England reporters about the 49ers’ offense.

“I’ve never seen an offense like this, because they can do so many different things,” Wilfork said. “It’s not an offense where you can say ‘when they line up like this they’re going to do this, or this guy is going to do this,’ because it seems like everybody who touches the ball is very dangerous, from the receivers to the backs to the quarterbacks.

“We’re going to have to basically get back to fundamentals, playing good football, and just learn on the go. Just play what we see. I’m pretty sure this week is going to be very, very crucial for us getting back to the sidelines every series to go over things that they’re doing different.”

Wilfork also sees a dynamic player in quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

“He definitely can hurt you running the ball, and he’s a pretty good passer,” Wilfork said. “Normally when you have a guy that can run as well as a running back or a receiver, you have a negative. Most of the time as a quarterback, it’s being able to stand in the pocket and throw the ball, but this guy, I mean, he can throw the football. He has a strong arm, is pretty accurate, and for the most part he makes good decisions.”