- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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A few notable leftovers from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick's season-ending interview on sports radio WEEI:
1. Second-guessing himself on fourth-and-3 call? In replaying parts of the AFC Championship Game, Belichick seemed to be second-guessing himself for going for it on fourth down in the third quarter. Quarterback Tom Brady was sacked and the Patriots, trailing 20-3 at the time, ended up with no points instead of attempting what would have been a 46-yard field goal. "Those three points would have been good to have at the end of the game if we would have made the kick, which we would have had a good chance to," Belichick said. "I felt like, at the time, we were down by 17 points, only had three points, and hadn't got down there very much. I don't think you're going to beat Denver kicking field goals, but … if we would have had a field goal and then the two touchdowns we ended up getting later on, those would have been important points for us. I don't know that was the right decision. It wasn't, obviously, when we lost yardage on fourth down and gave the ball back without any points."
2. Brady's "window" of opportunity: With Brady turning 37 in August, Belichick was asked if he has more urgency to put weapons around him than maybe 10 years ago. "I think every year, you try to put the best team on the field that you can, understanding that there has to be a balance between putting all your eggs in one basket and blowing up your salary cap and draft and everything else for one season," he said. "That's not really what I'm talking about. But within reason, doing all the things you can do to have the most competitive team you can have. That's what we've done and we'll continue to do that. I'd say we've been very competitive over the last dozen years. That would be our expectation this year."
3. Ryan Mallett's development draws notice: As part of his answer on the urgency to possibly put more weapons around Brady, Belichick veered off course slightly in mentioning that the quarterback position is like others in that depth is important. "We all know that we're one play away, at any position, from having to replace that player. In Mallett's case, Ryan has improved significantly in the three years that he's been here. I thought he made another strong jump this year and if at some point he ends up having to play, whenever that is, I think he is certainly on the road to being ready to play. I think that's what you, as an organization, try to provide for your football team -- an opportunity to be competitive and to have a chance. That's what we're going to try to do at every position. There isn't anything we can ignore. We have to do what's best for the team. That's what we'll try to do. It's not about one position or one guy -- they're all important."
4. Replacing Pepper Johnson: Belichick lauded the longtime assistant coach who is departing the franchise in 2014 and hinted that responsibilities could be shuffled around to help account for the void. "I think we can handle the situation as it is," Belichick said. "But that doesn't mean we wouldn't necessarily not add somebody. I'm not sure how that will go."
5. The 2013 team improved as much as any in his tenure: Belichick explained what he came to like about the 2013 squad, saying, "From Day 1, in the spring, they met every challenge we gave them. They had a great work ethic. They were physically and mentally tough. We demanded a lot out of them and they responded in a positive way, without making excuses. I think this team showed as much improvement over the course of the season as probably as any I've coached." Belichick also noted, among other things, the team's resilience in terms of how it played at the end of games, as well as its unselfish approach.
9hBy Ian O'Connor