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Patriots coach moving ahead after stunning Super Bowl setback

BOSTON -- Bill Belichick isn't looking back.

With the sting still fresh of the stunning Super Bowl loss that ruined the Patriots unbeaten season, their coach hasn't watched tape of the game yet or analyzed everything that went wrong.

And that exit from the field with one second left after he congratulated New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin?

"I wasn't really sure of the time," Belichick said in a conference call Tuesday. "Everybody started on to the field and then I got over there and I wanted to congratulate Tom. I've been in that situation before after the game. I wanted to get over there and congratulate him and congratulate him on the championship. There really wasn't much left at that point."

Just enough time for Eli Manning to kneel down with the ball as the final second ticked off, ending New York's 17-14 win and finishing New England's season at 18-1 rather than 19-0.

"It's a disappointing end to a lot of good things that happened this season," Belichick said. "We played a lot of good football, but we're certainly 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 now it's starting over, into the '08 season. It's already time to move on. We're into the offseason and that's just the way it is. We'll start moving ahead toward next year."

He wasn't ready to talk much about next season, not just two days after the Patriots first loss in four Super Bowls in the Belichick-Tom Brady era. And not when sound judgment can be clouded by lingering disappointment.

So he wasn't prepared to say if his three oldest defensive starters, 39-year-old Junior Seau, 35-year-old Rodney Harrison and 34-year-old Tedy Bruschi, would all be back.

A cooling-off period is important before making important decisions, such as whether to retire, Belichick said.

"I have said this in previous years and I would say it every year," he said. "I don't think the day after the season is a great time to make decisions about anything.

"So 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. I've certainly 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 bit too for various reasons. ... A lot of times those are emotional decisions and not really good fundamental ones."

Right after the Super Bowl, Seau said, "I haven't thought about the future. I am having too much fun." He said, losing the game "will not affect my decision."

He already retired once, after the 2005 season, but changed his mind a few days later and signed with the Patriots.

Bruschi and Harrison did not comment on possible retirement after the Super Bowl.

Belichick, meanwhile, is looking ahead to free agency, the draft and spring minicamp.

First, he plans to rewatch the game. Some of his coaches already have looked at it.

"It's certainly part of the overall season evaluation," Belichick said. "I just haven't had a chance to watch it yet."

Losing a game they were heavily favored to win was the low point of a record-setting season; 589 total points, 50 touchdown passes by Brady and 23 scoring receptions by Randy Moss all broke NFL records.

Still, it can be difficult to focus on accomplishments so soon after allowing the winning touchdown to the Giants with just 35 seconds left between the Patriots and what would have been the best record in NFL history.

"It's time to move on," Belichick said. "I'm not going to sit here and dwell on anything, good or bad, that happened in the past. It is what it is. We played our last game of the '07 season."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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