- Mike Reiss, ESPN New England Patriots reporter
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"Certainly a lot of good things happened for us this season, but unfortunately it gets overshadowed by the final result," Belichick said in a season-ending news conference Monday that recapped the playoff loss and looked ahead to the team's offseason approach, despite an uncertain future with NFL labor uncertainty.
A somber Belichick, wearing his trademark blue hoodie, called it a "disappointing day."
"You always think your season is going to continue," he said. "We had a lot of confidence going into the game, [but] it didn't work out."
Belichick was questioned on some of the critical plays and decisions that contributed to the team's loss, including a botched second-quarter fake punt, Jerricho Cotchery's 58-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter and the Patriots' run-first offensive approach in the fourth that chewed up valuable time.
As was the case Sunday night, he would not go into details on the fake punt, which Zoltan Mesko said after the game was called on the field by Patrick Chung. "We could go through 1,000 hypotheticals. What happens, happens," Belichick said.
On Cotchery's catch, Belichick called it "a very poor job" by his defense, turning a 4-yard pass into a 58-yarder that swung the momentum back to the Jets after the Patriots had sliced their lead to 14-11. Three plays later, the Jets scored a 7-yard touchdown, with quarterback Mark Sanchez connecting with diving receiver Santonio Holmes.
"That was an excellent pass and a great catch," Belichick said.
As for the fourth-quarter approach, Belichick defended the team's decision-making, saying he wouldn't have chosen a hurry-up attack if he could do it again. The team trailed 21-11 and chewed up more than seven minutes while running down the field, settling for a field goal when the drive stalled.
"If we score on that drive, it's a one-score game with five minutes to go," he explained. "It's not the position you want to be in, but it's not a bad position to be in."
Looking ahead, Belichick will be returning for a 12th season as coach of the Patriots. Such stability is rare in the NFL, as Belichick is the third-longest tenured head coach with the same team behind Tennessee's Jeff Fisher (since 1994) and Philadelphia's Andy Reid (since 1999).
Like all teams, the Patriots have veteran players who are considering retirement (e.g., running back Fred Taylor) and are scheduled for unrestricted free agency (e.g., Matt Light, Logan Mankins). Their status will be a significant part of the team-building process this offseason.
"I've talked to those players," Belichick said. "That's a common situation every year with every team, but I don't know that the day after the season is the time to make a decision on those things. In due course, I'm sure those decisions will all get worked out. It will be a combination of factors, some by the players, some by the club, maybe both. We'll just have to see how it goes."
Given the uncertainty of the NFL's labor situation, Belichick said the team still knows it will focus on the draft because that will happen regardless. That's one of the few things "cemented" into the team's offseason plans.
As for Belichick's personal itinerary, he will be coaching the AFC Pro Bowl squad along with his staff on Jan. 30 in Hawaii. The losing team in the divisional round of the playoffs with the best record is tabbed to coach the game.
"It's definitely not where we want to be, but we have to go out there and do it," he said.
Asked if he might do some free-agent scouting on the trip to Hawaii, Belichick responded with a chuckle.
"We'll scout the golfing," he said, noting that the tempo and level of those practices are not conducive to scouting.
That was the lightest moment of an otherwise somber news conference, a result of the suddenness with which the team's season ended. Not even the Patriots' NFL-best 14-2 regular season could bring a smile to Belichick's face.
"It was good, but it's not the final measuring stick," he said. "We've all got a lot of disappointment today in the final results."
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.
Bill Belichick said Monday that the loss to the Jets overshadowed a positive regular season.