FOXBOROUGH, Mass (AP) -Bill Belichick's response had a certain validity.
When asked why he went for a first down on a fourth-and-1 at the Washington 5 with 10 minutes left and a 38-0 lead, the New England coach said: ``What did you want us to do? Kick a field goal?''
Washington's Joe Gibbs didn't seem bothered, saying: ``I have no problem with that.''
The Patriots went on to score a touchdown and to beat the Redskins 52-7, finishing what may be the most dominant half season in modern NFL history: an 8-0 record; an average of 41.4 points a game, with 204 more points than the opposition.
Still, it's hard to come away from a Patriots game these days without feeling Belichick is trying to stick it to everyone he plays. Just his way of demonstrating to the other 31 teams that he doesn't need to videotape their defensive signals to beat them.
This wasn't one of the lowly AFC East teams the Patriots were beating up. This was one that entered the game 4-2 and was fifth in the NFL in fewest yards allowed per game, just 276.8.
New England got 486 yards, all but 29 before they finally inserted backups in the second half of the fourth quarter. The Patriots scored even then with backup QB Matt Cassel scrambling 15 yards for the final touchdown.
In the end, though, this was just like the rest of their first eight games. The Patriots' low in points scored this season is 34 and their smallest margin of victory is 17, against Cleveland. The Browns are coached by Belichick's friend and former defensive coordinator, Romeo Crennel, so that could have been the one game when New England showed a little mercy.
The players, naturally, followed the party line set by Belichick. They are doing a lot of things badly.
Tom Brady, who threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more, suggested ``there are a lot of things we did wrong that we have to clear up.''
Right. Brady reached 30 TD passes, a pace that will give him 60 for the season, 11 more than Peyton Manning's NFL record set two years ago. He might have had 32, but in the first quarter he threw a bad pass that landed at Wes Welker's feet in the end zone, and in the third, Marcellus Rivers dropped what would have been a TD pass.
In each case, Brady ended up running for the score instead, giving him two touchdown runs in a game for the first time in his career.
No sooner was the game over than the Patriots' switched to the litany for the coming week, their game in Indianapolis against the Super Bowl champion, the NFL's only other unbeaten team.
The message kept popping up.
Belichick: ``They're unbeaten and they're the Super Bowl champions. Until someone beats them, they're the best team in the league.''
Safety Rodney Harrison: ``They're the best team in the league. They won the title and they're unbeaten.''
Just to hammer home the point, Brady chimed with the same message a little later.
So maybe they won't run up the score on the Colts because they may not be able to run it up. They may not even win the game, although the Colts' 7-0 record has been accomplished with considerable more travail than the Patriots' unbeaten mark.
If Gibbs didn't have a problem with the Patriots, some of his players weren't happy.
``They have the ball, they can do anything with it they want,'' middle linebacker London Fletcher said.
It wasn't clear if he meant going for the TD that late, or as a tribute to the ability of their offense.
Maybe all this ends next week against Manning and the Colts. That's where last season ended for New England when it squandered a 21-3 lead and lost 38-34 when Indy's Marlin Jackson picked off Brady on the final drive.
It's also quite likely the Patriots' run at the first unbeaten regular season since the 1972 Dolphins will come down to the final week of the season, a Saturday night against the Giants at the Meadowlands.
It would be fitting.
Giants Stadium is the scene of the crime, the spot where the camera taping the Jets' signals was confiscated, resulting in a $500,000 fine for Belichick and $250,000 and the loss of a first-round draft pick for the team.
Wouldn't Belichick love to finish an unbeaten season there?

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