Patriots notebook

Tireless Wilfork did his best to keep busy

Tom Brady knows the Patriots didn’t have a flawless effort Sunday, which could explain why he was sacked three times. Tom Brady knows the Patriots didn’t have a flawless effort Sunday, which could explain why he was sacked three times. (Charles Krupa/Associated Press)
By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / December 21, 2010

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After Sunday night’s win over Green Bay, Bill Belichick gave the players yesterday off. But the coaching staff was hard at work at Gillette Stadium, breaking down game film.

During an afternoon conference call, Belichick said more than once that he needs to do a better job coaching and preparing his players. New England plays at Buffalo Sunday.

Thanks to Green Bay’s huge edge in time of possession (40:48 to 19:12), the Patriots defense was on the field for extended stretches, and because of injuries on the defensive line, Vince Wilfork was called on to play more snaps than usual.

“I thought Vince did a terrific job for us,’’ Belichick said. “He was out there for a lot of plays — 74 plays or whatever it was — but it was a lot. I thought he played hard. He really had an outstanding game. They had a lot of attention directed at him, which is understandable, but he had a bunch of double teams and slides on the protection coming his way and those types of things. He really played hard, played well, and did a lot of things to help us win.’’

Wilfork was credited with six tackles, and also had a fumble recovery on Tully Banta-Cain’s strip sack on the final play of the game. It also appeared that Wilfork was held on the play in which Banta-Cain was flagged for illegal hands to the face, negating a Brandon Meriweather interception.

As it often is with defensive linemen in New England, the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

“I thought he was outstanding — probably one of the best games he’s played,’’ Belichick said. “He’s played a lot of good ones, but I’d say that’s one of the best ones he’s played around here.’’

Good enough Tom Brady knows the Patriots did not play their best Sunday night, but he takes a great deal of satisfaction in the victory.

“I thought [the Packers] were a very good football team, and they played like it,’’ Brady said during his weekly appearance on WEEI. “These games are hard to win any way you’re looking at them. They played very well. From the opening kickoff [an onside kick], I knew that, OK, this is going to be one of those games. This is the way it’s going to go.’’

New England was able to win despite Brady passing for only 163 yards.

“I’m sure we lost the field-position battle. And we overcame a bunch of penalties. I don’t think we played our best game certainly, but I’m also very proud of the fact that we won the game,’’ Brady said.

Fond memory One play against the Packers that will continue to bring smiles in the locker room is Dan Connolly’s 71-yard kickoff return.

He started his runback holding the ball with both arms, high on his chest, then changed his grip when he began picking up steam. Soon everyone on the New England sideline was cheering him on.

“He doesn’t hold the ball very often — when he does, it’s not like it’s going to be the way BenJarvus [Green-Ellis] carries it,’’ Brady said. “He’s holding it however he can get those big hands around it. That was pretty funny when I saw him running down the field, I’ll never forget that.

“I’m always saying, ‘Just get down.’ The way they carry the ball, any slight contact can knock the ball out. I’ve seen that a bunch over the course of my career. Danny picked it up and once I saw him break to the outside, I was like, ‘Go!’ ’’

Connolly left the game with what the team called a head injury, so he wasn’t available to talk with the media.

Wright improving Belichick provided this update on defensive lineman Mike Wright, who has not practiced or played since sustaining a concussion against the Colts Nov. 21: “I’d say Mike is definitely improving, but we list him each week based on what his condition is and what we have to work with, so that’s what we’ve done, that’s what we’ll continue to do. I would definitely say he’s improved but he wasn’t ready to go [Sunday] night. We’ll just have to continue to monitor that and take it as it comes.’’

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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