The Patriots have weathered a complete overhaul of their offense, but the surprising fact is that it's New England's defense that has them 4-0. So the loss of all-everything nose tackle Vince Wilfork, most likely for the rest of the year, could come as the biggest blow yet.
Wilfork came up lame on the last play of the opening series of last night's 30-23 New England win over the Falcons. He appeared to plant his right foot and attempt to change direction on a screen pass to Julio Jones, and collapsed without contact. Georgia Dome fans booed, because fans are dumb and booing injuries is the new hotness. The Boston Globe reports this morning that Wilfork tore his Achilles tendon, and injury that almost certainly ends his season.
Wilfork was carted off and initially ruled questionable, but later left the stadium in a walking boot. Heading into the game, he had been listed on the Pats' injury report with a foot issue, but it's not known if that played any role in his injury.
Wilfork hasn't missed a game since 2009, and been the linchpin of New England's front seven for nearly a decade. His absence will be felt especially hard this year, as Tom Brady struggles to adapt to two rookie receivers. The Patriots' D has been the team's strongest unit thus far—sixth in the league in scoring defense, and locking down in the red zone. Even without Wilfork, two first-half stops inside the 20 kept New England in a game where Brady was just 5-for-9 through two quarters, and a climactic stand on the Falcons' last possession sealed the win.
Whatever praise you can give New England's front line, you can't say it's deep. Joe Vellano, Chris Jones, and Tommy Kelly are the only listed tackles, with Vellano and Chandler Jones filling in last night. It might be time for one of Bill Belichick's patented midseason trades.