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Belichick looks ahead

Coach says he won't dwell on final game

Email|Print| Text size + By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / February 6, 2008

While Patriots fans might be dwelling on the team's stunning 17-14 loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII, coach Bill Belichick is moving on.

Debates about whether the Patriots' 16-0 regular season and 18-game winning streak were rendered historically irrelevant by the Giants' upset are of no interest to Belichick, who spoke with the media via conference call yesterday.

It's on to 2008, in his mind. He hasn't even watched the tape of Super Bowl XLII yet, although he planned on doing so as part of the team's evaluation process.

"As I said after the game, it was a disappointing end to a lot of good things that happened this season and the players did a good job all year long," said Belichick. 'We played a lot of good football, but we're definitely disappointed about the way it ended. We came so close, but it just didn't work out.

"It takes a lot to get to this point, but we're starting all over in the new '08 season and it's already time to move on. We're already into the offseason and that's just the way it is. So, we'll start moving ahead towards next year."

The first step in moving ahead is taking a step back to see what just occurred.

"The first thing is to go back and look at what happened in the season," said Belichick. "Evaluate our team and our scheme and our players, and then we start moving into the team-building aspect and free agency, the draft, and personnel decisions and the playbook and stuff like that. All the things that we do to prepare for the offseason program, the spring camps, and ultimately the '08 season."

The question is who will be moving forward with Belichick. The Patriots have to address high-profile free agents in cornerback Asante Samuel and wide receiver Randy Moss, and the status of veteran linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau, both of whom are contemplating retirement.

"How those players feel now and how they might feel a week from now, or two weeks from now, or a month from now could be entirely different," said Belichick. "Certainly, I've seen that in my career as a coach and I've had feelings after a game that, after a period of time, have shifted a little bit, too, for various reasons.

"I personally wouldn't put too much into anything that happens soon after the end of any season, good or bad. Immediately after a particular game, a lot of times those are emotional decisions and not really good fundamental ones."

There also could be turnover on the coaching staff.

The Giants outgained the Patriots, 338 yards to 274, and New England struggled to get the Giants off the field when it mattered most, as their final scoring drive lasted 12 plays.

And the all-out blitz call that left cornerback Ellis Hobbs one-on-one with Plaxico Burress, who beat Hobbs for the winning touchdown with 35 seconds remaining, seemed a curious one by defensive coordinator Dean Pees, especially if Hobbs was hobbled by a groin injury, as reported by Foxsports.com.

"I think anytime you coach a game, you always look at things and feel there are things that you could have done better," said Belichick, when asked generally if he second-guessed any decisions. "I certainly could have.

"Like I feel about every game, there is always room to improve and coach better, and I'm sure that all the players that participated in the game feel the same way, that there's a way they could have played better, plays they could have done better. When you play a close game like that, I'm sure that is every player and coach's feeling, assistant coach, head coach, players, everybody. That's the way you feel after a game like that."

When asked directly whether he was confident that he'll have the same coaching staff in place for next year, Belichick was noncommittal, saying the same line of thinking applies to such decisions that holds true for whether Bruschi and Seau decide to suit up for another season.

"I think that applies to everything. Again, some decisions have to be made in a timely manner," said Belichick. "Whether you want to make them or not, they need to be made in some kind of timely fashion.

"I just don't think that the day after the season is the time to make those. I think some decisions come in a timely way, and then you have to make them when that time comes, but I would not be in a rush to make a decision the day after the season ended on anything."

One thing is certain: After the way the 2007 season ended, the 2008 one will be highly anticipated. For now, it's easier to look forward to something than to peer back in pain at a wasted opportunity.

"It's pretty much over. Time to move on. I'm not going to sit here and dwell on anything good or bad. It's over," said Belichick. It is what it is. We played our last game of the '07 season."

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