- Associated Press - Monday, February 6, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Turns out the “new” Bill Belichick looks and sounds an awful lot like the “old” one.

Especially when he gets beat.

During the week leading up to the Super Bowl, there was plenty of buzz about how the dour Patriots coach was a changed man. His players kept hinting that the latest woman in his life was responsible for smoothing out some of the rough edges. Instead of his usual non-answer answers, Belichick actually seemed to be enjoying some of the give-and-take during interview sessions. Instead of dressing like Mike Tyson climbing into the ring _ hooded sweat shirt, sleeves cut off at the elbow _ Belichick turned up in a natty suit and a violet tie one day and a lilac patterned shirt the next.

Wild and crazy? Not exactly. But he was seen smiling on occasion.

That guy was nowhere to be found Sunday night. Belichick took a calculated gamble with less than a minute left, allowing Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw to roll 6 yards into the end zone for an uncontested touchdown and a 21-17 lead. His Patriots got the ball back for one final drive with more time than they would have had otherwise _ 57 seconds left after the kickoff _ but couldn’t march the length of the field. Their chances at a comeback were batted away when New York safety Kenny Phillips did just that to Tom Brady’s last-gasp heave into the end zone as time expired.

Asked afterward if the Patriots conceded that final score, Belichick said, “Right.”

Asked to explain the thought process behind the decision, he replied, “No.”

A second later, he added, “Ball was inside the 10-yard line, a 90 percent field goal conversion (rate from that close).”

Asked if he would second-guess that or any other decision, Belichick said breezily, “Sure, could have done a better job in a lot of things.”

At least there was a consensus among most of the Patriots on that.

Linebacker Jerod Mayo, who handles the defensive calls on the field, said the decision to surrender the final score right away, rather than make a goal-line stand, or force the Giants to attempt a field goal, was “situational … the only choice.”

That came as news to more than a few of the Giants.

“I didn’t realize it at the time,” New York guard Chris Snee said. “But when it (the New England defense) parted like the Red Sea, I saw it was their strategy. But right away? No, I didn’t know.”

Bradshaw, too, didn’t figure out what was up until he reached the goal line. He spun halfway around, trying to stop his own progress and use up more of the clock. But his momentum carried him the final step.

“I was fine with the way we handled it. My only regret,” said Pats lineman Gerard Warren, “is that he didn’t fall over sooner.”

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