FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Bill Belichick could use the Patriots' bye week to enjoy their biggest win of the season and their perfect record.
He has other plans.
Rather than spend the extra time savoring New England's comeback at Indianapolis - "That's not really what it's for," he said yesterday - he'll study his team and its next opponent, a team New England already has crushed by 31 points.
Since that 38-7 win over Buffalo, however, the Bills are 4-1 with just a one-point loss to Dallas on a last-play field goal.
"They're on a little bit of a roll here," the Patriots coach said. "It looks like they're playing their best football of the season."
So are the Patriots.
With "probably eight minutes of as good of football as we've played all year," he said, they rallied in the fourth quarter from a 20-10 deficit to a 24-20 win over the Colts on Sunday.
The matchup of the only unbeaten teams left the Patriots at 9-0 with a week off to rest their bodies and sharpen their minds. Seven more wins and they'll be the first team with a perfect regular season record since Miami in 1972.
The Colts (7-1) posed the biggest threat to that. New England's remaining opponents are Buffalo, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, the New York Jets, Miami, and the New York Giants in the season finale.
From the time the Patriots got the ball with 9:42 left Sunday, until Tom Brady clinched the win with a first down pass to Wes Welker with 2:00 left, the Patriots were spectacular, outscoring the Colts 14-0, outgaining them 135 yards to 26, and forcing fumbles on Indianapolis' two possessions.
The win was so satisfying, the usually stone-faced Belichick was downright giddy when it ended.
With a wide smile, he hugged 325-pound nose tackle Vince Wilfork and 250-pound linebacker Rosevelt Colvin as he began walking toward midfield to shake hands with Colts coach Tony Dungy.
"We're down by 10 with 10 minutes to go in the game in Indianapolis, and we're kneeling on the ball with two minutes to go, against a good team, on the road, who definitely had us on the ropes," Belichick said. "I was very happy with that.
"There's no doubt about it, I was elated."
Immediately after the game, he sought to downplay the win in one of the most hyped regular season games in NFL history.
"It's a football game against the Colts, that's all it was," he said Sunday.
By yesterday, he had moved on.
There was tape of the game to study, scouting of his own players to do, mistakes to correct.
Despite their record, the Patriots were far from perfect in Indianapolis.
On offense, Brady threw two interceptions, doubling his total for the season, and the Patriots had just 207 total yards with 10 minutes to play. On defense, they let Joseph Addai weave up the left sideline late in the first half for a 73-yard touchdown after a short pass by Peyton Manning.
"We have to try to take stock of where we're at now, and there's certainly a lot of things we still need to work on," Belichick said.
As usual, he'll be very thorough while giving his players four days off after tomorrow's practice.
"You look at all of your plays, all of the passes against one coverage, all of the passes against another coverage, all of this run, all of that run, all of the next run," he said.
He'll analyze the defense, special teams, and other aspects of the season so far.
"That doesn't necessarily mean that what was good in the first nine games is going to be good in the next seven games, but at least it gives you more perspective," Belichick said. "It's hard to keep up with that on a weekly basis."
Now, after four preseason games and nine regular season games, the Patriots finally have a bye, extra time for the NFL's best team to work on getting better.
"There's certainly a mental drain," Belichick said. "I think whenever the bye week comes it's good."42.06547 -71.24892