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But not all of his teammates felt the same way.

“It killed me,” linebacker Brandon Spikes said. “When the call came in to let them score, I was kind of like, `What? I’m here to do my job and it’s my job to play defense and let them score?’

“It was tough,” he added. “It definitely was tough.”

There was a very interesting echo to the episode.

In this same building in December, 2009, ahead by six points against the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning in a regular-season game, the Patriots faced a fourth-and-2 at their own 28-yard line with 2:03 left to play. Rather than punt the ball and dare Manning to score, Belichick called a short pass to Kevin Faulk that came up just short. With a short field, that Manning _ just as his little brother, Eli, did Sunday night _ won the game. Belichick’s genius _ almost an article of faith across the NFL before that _ was mocked and debated for weeks.

If there was any benefit to losing that game, Belichick joked more than once this week, it was that Colts fans in Indianapolis treated him much better than they had before. But he could not find consolation in anything by the time this one was in the books.

Afterward, he was asked more than two dozen questions. It almost doesn’t matter what the subject was, since Belichick answered nearly everyone in a barely audible monotone with one of the following phrases:

“It’s not a good feeling. … I don’t know. … You’d have to ask them. … We played hard. … We competed. … We came up short. … The Giants are a good football team. … They have good football players, too.”

It wasn’t until a moment near the end when someone asked Belichick if he would have retired after this game if the Patriots had won their fourth Super Bowl during his tenure. He blinked.

“I’m just here to talk about the game,” Belichick said.

The back-and-forth of the last week was already a dimming memory. Belichick narrowed his eyes, scanned the reporters crowded in front of him and said with more than a little edge back in his voice, “Any more questions about the game?”

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Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.