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 GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -A single second showed on the clock - a tick away from a Giant upset.
Before Eli Manning could take a final knee to seal New York's 17-14 upset victory Sunday night, Patriots coach Bill Belichick ran onto the field for a quick handshake with Giants coach Tom Coughlin and made a beeline for the locker room.
The so-called genius coach with the three Super Bowl rings appeared little more than a poor sport.
``I mean, look, they played well,'' Belichick said. ``They made some plays. We made some plays. In the end, they made a couple more than we did.''
They sure did, and that should alarm Belichick. He put together perhaps the best team the NFL has seen in a long time, setting records galore on offense with Tom Brady and Randy Moss.
ms to finish a season undefeated.
The disappointment was clear on the faces of all the Patriots, who spoke in hushed tones and shook their heads in disbelief while talking after the loss. With all that was on the line, could this have been the worst loss of Belichick's coaching career?
``I don't rank them,'' Belichick said. ``It's disappointing.''
Perfection took a back seat for the Patriots, and now it's back to the drawing board for Belichick.
Moss is among the Patriots' handful of free agents, but said he'd like to finish his career with New England. Safety Rodney Harrison and linebackers Junior Seau and Tedy Bruschi might have played their last games in the NFL.
There will be changes, for sure - and Belichick has an entire winter to brood about missing out on football immortality. Maybe he'll be comforted by Brady, who tried to spin things after the game.
``Tonight doesn't take away from anything we have done over the course of the season,'' Brady said. ``We had a great year. It's just unfortunate that tonight turned out the way it did.''
A lot of the struggles on offense had to do with New England's heralded offensive line allowing a season-high five sacks. Coming in, Brady had been sacked a career-low 24 times playing behind a line that produced three Pro Bowlers in center Dan Koppen, left tackle Matt Light and left guard Logan Mankins.
ut, swarming defensive attack by the Giants - in the worst possible setting. It was the first time Brady had been sacked as many as five times since the New York Jets did it on Sept. 21, 2003.
``It's one of those things where they have a great front seven,'' Koppen said. ``They have tremendous players up there and they just outplayed us.''
The offense couldn't get going, other than Wes Welker - who tied a Super Bowl record with 11 catches - mainly because Brady had no time behind the line.
``I think their intensity from the beginning snap to the end of the game was really higher than ours,'' Moss said. ``We just couldn't meet that intensity.''
Ouch.
Given two weeks to produce the mother of all game plans, Belichick came up short. It's a position he's not used to, especially when he was correct 18 times this season. The only one that mattered, though, was the last one.
``Congratulations to the Giants,'' he said. ``They made some plays there at the end and we didn't. It's disappointing.''
The season started with a scandal - ``Spygate'' cost Belichick and the Patriots a draft pick, $750,000 and, to some, their credibility - and ended with reports of more foul play as a former member of the Patriots' video staff claimed he taped the St. Louis Rams' last walkthrough before they played in the 2002 Super Bowl.
It's all enough for Belichick and the Patriots to head into the offseason hoping to quickly forget a season that was a win from perfection.
``I can't let that loss take away from everything that happened this season,'' Harrison said. ``It isn't just about wins and losses. It's about how we prepared and learned what we were as players and the camaraderie we formed.''
They can keep telling themselves that, but training camp surely won't have many warm and fuzzy moments for the Patriots. Belichick is probably ready to get back to work - today.
``I'm sure we are all going to wake up (Monday) more disappointed,'' Brady said. ``When you review the film, I'm sure we all could have done things better, but it's just part of competition. We competed against a team that is very deserving of being Super Bowl champs.''
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