|Belichick, Pats sets another record: shortest celebration in NFL history|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 31 December 2007 02:00|
A loud cheer could be heard just past midnight deep in the bowels of Giants Stadium, rocking the visiting New England locker room next door. Bubbly was being poured. A few moments later, the coach of the Patriots entered the interview room through a side door and stepped up to the podium.
Though his words said otherwise, anybody who's seen Belichick work knew any personal celebration of New England's perfect season was effectively over the second he was done talking. He already had his eyes on the prize gleaming in the distance.
``We are going to take a little bit of time and enjoy this one and feel good about what we have accomplished,'' Belichick said, then followed that up without taking a breath. ``Pretty soon, we are going to have to turn the page and move on.''
After a 38-35 win over New York, in what was not the best-played game of the season but might have been the most honest in terms of effort, Belichick touched on a number of topics and didn't reveal much about any of them.
Watch him talk about most things for more than a minute and you're left with the impression this is a guy who seems to have had his emotions and sense of humor surgically removed.
Tom Brady and Randy Moss both set NFL single-season records on the same play - a 65-yard strike that gave the quarterback 50 touchdowns passing and his sidekick 23 TD receptions - and put New England in front to stay.
``I'm happy for the players that got them. I know there were several of them. I wasn't sure what they all were,'' he said. ``But whatever they were, I'm happy they got them.
``But I'm more happy for the team.''
Nobody expects two teams with postseason berths already locked up to pull out the kitchen sink on the last weekend of the regular season, let alone try to beat each other over the head with it. But that's what happened here Saturday night, from the first play until almost the last.
That the game-breaker happened to tie together several of the most important elements from the Patriots' journey to the NFL's first perfect regular season in 35 years - another clutch play, another fourth-quarter comeback, the brilliance of Brady and Moss - was pure serendipity.
Yet the way his players reacted to it, both at that moment and afterward, well, that was pure Belichick. He might not appear to have enough personality, at least not in public, to go around. Whatever there is, though, has been grafted onto his team.
Someone asked linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who's been at Belichick's side for the entire championship run, what he was thinking about after that record-breaking score.
``What is the score? What does it do for us? Does it put us in the lead? Are we behind after the score? What do I have to do as a defensive player once we kick off the ball and get the return. That's how focused we are,'' he said.
``I think I realized what had just happened when Randy threw the ball back to the sideline. I was like, 'There is the ball. The ball that set those records.' Then you shake it off, and realize here comes the kickoff and 'What do we have to do?'''
Brady had barely escaped from a brief, impromptu celebratory hug with his offensive line when he poked two fingers into the sky, not a ``victory'' sign to be sure, but a signal to the rest of the offensive unit that they needed a 2-point conversion. They got that, got everything else they needed to win, in fact, but afterward his celebration was almost as brief.
Like Bruschi said, that's how focused they are.
``Coach has kept us pretty grounded,'' Brady said. ``He's not so concerned with records and stuff like that. He's most concerned with us putting our best out there each week.''
That was a lesson Belichick learned from his mentor, Bill Parcells, who also taught him ``there's no meaningless games when you're playing in them.''
Giants coach Tom Coughlin learned the same lesson from the same man and in what might have been the most fitting tribute of all, contested what was in fact a meaningless game for his team like it was the Super Bowl. He didn't rest any of his banged-up regulars, making the Patriots earn their place in history the hard way.
It may have cost him the services of starting center Shaun O'Hara and weakside linebacker Kawika Mitchell for the postseason, considerably weakening New York's chances of making a splash, but Coughlin didn't care.
``We will have to evaluate and see how they are,'' Coughlin said. ``It is most unfortunate, but we are going to play the 16th game.''
Now that's something that would have impressed even Belichick.
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitkeap.org