EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -Bill Belichick's return to the scene of the crime completed the task - the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history.
Somehow it was fitting.
The rally by Belichick's New England Patriots to beat the New York Giants 38-35 Saturday night came at Giants Stadium, where on Sept. 9, one of his employees was caught taping the Jets' defensive signals.
It was, by all accounts, the incentive that sent the Pats on their way to a 16-0 season, making the half-million bucks it cost their coach simply an incidental expense.
This was not a game like so many in the first half of the season, when Belichick seemed to enjoy running up scores with impunity on overmatched opponents.
This was against an opponent that played and played hard, despite having nothing at all to gain by beating New England, other than the satisfaction of handing the team its only loss. The Giants were willing to sacrifice their bodies in what was basically an exhibition game: center Shaun O'Hara, linebacker Kawika Mitchell and cornerback Sam Madison all sustained injuries that conceivably could keep them out next week when they go to Tampa for the playoffs.
This turned out to be one of four games - maybe five - that Belichick and the Patriots could have lost but didn't.
The first was in Dallas, where they beat the best team in the NFC 48-27 on Oct. 14 - a game that the Cowboys led, 24-21, in the third quarter. That's the ``maybe.''
The most impressive came on Nov. 4, when New England came from 10 points down with 10 minutes left to beat another unbeaten team, Indianapolis.
The others were 3-point wins over Philadelphia and at Baltimore and then this one, the return to the scene of the crime. The Giants stayed with them throughout and even moved down the field for a touchdown on their first possession of the second half to take a 28-16 lead. Those 12 points were the most New England had trailed by all season.
But that really is nothing to a Belichick team, especially one that has Tom Brady and Randy Moss. In fact, the go-ahead touchdown came on a 65-yard Brady-Moss TD which set single-season records for TD passes by the QB and catches for Moss.
It was the same play the Patriots had tried a play earlier when Moss dropped the ball.
That's Belichick's philosophy: It was open and should have worked.
So why not try it again.
Same thing with bookending the season at the Meadowlands.
It worked the first time and it finally worked again.

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