Weary Belichick begins planning


Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 12:58 a.m.
FOXBORO, Mass. -The master of Xs and Os needs to catch up on his Zs.
Bill Belichick was ''runnin' on fumes'' Monday - his brain and body still busy after a draining win that put his New England Patriots in another Super Bowl. A few early morning winks would have to do for a coach who treats wasted minutes as missed opportunities.
He even held a pre-dawn team meeting after the Patriots arrived from Pittsburgh at the airport outside Providence, R.I., at about 2:30 a.m.
''We're all pretty well spent,'' Belichick said. ''We don't want to feel good Monday. We want to put all our energy into the game and that's what they did.''
The defending champions beat the Steelers 41-27 Sunday night and go for their third NFL championship in four years when they play the Philadelphia Eagles in Jacksonville on Feb. 6.
With two weeks between games, the pooped Patriots have time to rest. Belichick gave them today and Wednesday off but suspects most players will head back to Gillette Stadium and work out during that time.
Some were there Monday morning - soon after a slow-speed ride from the airport along snowy streets - exercising in the weight room.
''That really is a credit and really a mark of the attitude of the team,'' Belichick said. ''We're getting ready for another game and some of them have already begun that process.''
He said the Patriots didn't study the Eagles before Sunday's game. But they did well with only one full week to prepare for Pittsburgh. They had two weeks to get ready for their first playoff game, a 20-3 win over Indianapolis.
The Colts led the NFL in scoring but were held to a field goal. The Steelers gave up the fewest points in the league but surrendered 41.
''Our players made some outstanding plays at the right times'' in Pittsburgh, Belichick said. ''We struggled for a lot of yards in that game and that's a good defense.''
The Patriots gained 322 yards, 108 of them on three touchdown plays, and scored 24 points off turnovers. Just nine minutes into the game, they led 10-0.
''The game really couldn't have started any better for us,'' quarterback Tom Brady said.
By Monday, that was old news.
''We got this victory, did our five-minute celebration, and now everybody is back to normal,'' Deion Branch said after scoring on a 60-yard pass play and a 23-yard run. ''We know we still have one big game.''
The NFC was the weaker conference, but the Eagles still led it with a 13-3 record and showed they could win without wide receiver Terrell Owens. He missed the last four games, including two in the playoffs, with an ankle injury.
His status for the Super Bowl is uncertain. No matter who plays for Philadelphia, Belichick has plenty of time devise plays the Eagles have never seen from the Patriots.
''There's nothing to celebrate yet,'' he said. ''We're meeting our biggest challenge.''
On Monday, he peered through tired eyes at tape of the Eagles, organized plans for the week, doled out duties for members of the Patriots staff - and dozed.
''Sometimes you just get to that point where you can't keep your head up and take a little break,'' Belichick said. ''There are some things we've just got to get done today from a logistical standpoint. Some things need to be moved along because other people are waiting for those decisions to be made.''
It's a familiar workload. Play a game one day, review it and start planning the next day for another opponent.
By game day, all should be in order.
''We play once a week, that's it,'' Belichick said. ''We get three hours once a week to put our product out there in the field and there is so much that goes into that three-hour performance.
''You just try to get your team and yourself performing at their highest level in that one opportunity and then when that's over, that's it, you don't get another chance for another week.''
Or, in this case, for another season.
So for just two more weeks, Belichick will fight off fatigue with one goal in mind - hoisting the Lombardi Trophy again, if he has enough energy left.
''I wouldn't say I'm well rested,'' he said, ''but I just put one foot in front of another.''

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