CoachBill Belichick was obviously excited after Sunday's 37-16 win over the Jets in Gillette Stadium. Almost running, he shucked a few cameramen on the way to his former protégé, Jets coachEric Mangini, and gave the youngest head coach in the NFL a big hug to show there were no hard feelings about Mangini defecting to the Jets last offseason.
And why wouldn't he be excited? His team was on a roll doing what it does best: winning in the playoffs.
"It was real good to go out there and win today," said Belichick immediately upon taking the podium to give his postgame press conference Sunday. "I'm real proud of our team. I thought they stepped up and played some of the best football that we've played all year."
But as often seems to be the case with Belichick, when he turned to step off the podium, he was also turning toward the future.
In his Monday press conference, which was held an hour and a half earlier than usual, Belichick was asked if he feels his team is playing its best football of the year right now.
"I think we're going to need to play our best against San Diego," he replied. "I think, based on the body of work, over a 16-game regular-season schedule, they're the best team in the AFC. We're going to have to play our best game of the year against them. It doesn't make any difference what happened last week or last month. The only thing that matters is what happens on Sunday. That's what it's going to take and that's what we need to do."
So much for celebration.
Belichick was also asked if he finds it difficult to move on to the next team after a big win.
"I don't think it's difficult. That's what it is. It's the National Football League," said the coach, whose playoff record in 31 years of NFL coaching is now 24-10, 11-1 with quarterback Tom Brady. "When Indianapolis won Saturday, we knew if we won that our next game would be against San Diego.
"We had done some preparation work on both (AFC) teams (with first-round byes). I told the people that are involved in that, obviously, to put the Baltimore stuff on the back burner and get out the San Diego stuff, and there were a few things that we furthered our analysis on with that.
"Then when the (Jets) game was over, I took the San Diego stuff that we had and put that into a place where I could start to get familiar with it and look at it. That process started last night. Forget about the Jets. It doesn't mean anything right now. That game is in the books. It's done. It's time to move on, and believe me, we know what kind of challenge we have ahead of us."
Belichick's lack of interest in reflecting on the Round 1 victory is understandable, considering he's got to prepare his team to take on the AFC's No. 1 seed this weekend, the Chargers (14-2). Things sure don't get any easier when there are only eight teams left.
So what does he already have on the Chargers?
"We have personnel write-ups on each player. We have several games broken down, games that have been watched and put into our terminology and nomenclatures, the formations, the defense, the blitz, down and distance and all of that, so it can all be looked at and segmented," he said. "Then based on that, there will be other things that we'll want to do further study on. I'm sure some of those will come up [Monday] and we'll keep digging into that as the week goes on."
The players are resting up after grinding out a 37-16 victory over the Jets Sunday night. They didn't blow it wide open until the last quarter when the final score grew more lopsided than the game felt. One thing's certain, however, their coaching staff was prepared, and they've already got DVD's of the Chargers to look at while they nurse their wounds.
Sunday night, on the NFL Network's NFL GameDay show, which is anchored by Rich Eisen, player-turned-analyst Deion Sanders predicted that safetyRodney Harrison "will not miss this game" against his former team, the Chargers. Asked about Harrison's status Monday, Belichick said, "We'll see. We're just day-to-day. Get past the Jet game, and now we'll start working on next week. All I knew is what I told you last week, so we'll see where we are." … Patriots receiver Reche Caldwell, who paced the team in regular-season play, worked for the Chargers the last time these two teams met in October of the 2005 season. The Chargers won that game, 41-17. "He came in here last year and I thought he played well against us," said Belichick of Caldwell on Monday. "We watched him. He's had a lot of good plays in his career. He's been injured some, but not this year. He's been very durable. He's a good receiver. He has good hands. He's quick. He can get open and catch the ball. I thought he had an opportunity to contribute here. Plus he's from Florida. It's like that's the criteria now for our receiving group." Five of the six wide receivers currently on the active roster attended the University of Florida.