MINNEAPOLIS -- Bill Belichick stopped before he entered into the large interview area reserved for the Patriots in the bowels of US Bank Stadium. He wondered how much time he was expected to carve out for reporters and their questions.
After the Patriots lost Super Bowl LII, 41-33, with a chance to tie the game on a last-second Hail Mary, he took to the podium and shouldered the blame for how things played out.
Players win games and coaches lose them, Belichick has often said.
"I’m really proud of the way our team competed tonight," he began. "I’m proud of the way our players and coaches competed for 60 minutes. It just wasn’t quite enough. We weren’t able to perform at our best. Obviously, we didn’t do a good enough job coaching."
Though the Patriots scored 33 points against a team that allowed an average of 18.4 per game in the regular season, though his quarterback threw for over 500 yards and had a rating of 115.4, Belichick list of issues began with missed offensive opportunities in the first half.
They got to the 8-yard line on their first drive of the game and couldn't punch it in. Field goal. They missed a field goal on fourth-and-one when they got to the 8-yard line on their next drive. They turned it over on downs from the Philadelphia 35 on a fourth-and-five pass that went incomplete from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski. They settled for a field goal again from the Philly 27 later in the half.
Four of their next five drives resulted in touchdowns, but those miscues early ended up coming back to bite the Patriots.
Then there was the defense.
Nick Foles finished 28-for-43 for 373 yards, three scores and an interception. The Eagles went 10-for-16 on third down. They went 2-for-2 on fourth down -- one of which was a tricky, direct-snap-to-a-back, end-around, tight-end pass to Foles for a touchdown. The Eagles ran for 6.1 yards per carry and they controlled the ball for eight minutes more than the Patriots. They accumulated 538 total yards.
Then there were the special teams.
The kicking operation had two plays go sideways -- one when Joe Cardona's low snap slipped through Ryan Allen's hands resulting in a missed chip-shot field goal, and another when Stephen Gostkowski hooked an extra point on what looked like a clean snap and hold.
"Just wasn’t quite enough against a good team like Philadelphia," Belichick said. "Give them credit. Doug Pederson and his staff, they did an outstanding job. They played a competitive game. In the end, we just couldn’t quite make enough plays, and that was all on me."
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Of course, after the game, the benching of Malcolm Butler will be what observers put on Belichick, not plays made or not made. Those will go on players' shoulders. Not having the team's defensive snap leader on the field at all, keeping Butler in uniform and at the ready but running Johnson Bademosi onto the field ahead of the hero of Super Bowl XLIX . . . That led to second-guessing well before the game finished up.
Belichick tried to find something positive in whatever it was he was feeling at the podium afterward.
"Disappointing, but I’m proud of the way our team competed," he said. "These guys are champions, champions of the AFC. They earned that. We just came up a little bit short. Tough, tough way to end. There’s a lot of really good things that happened this season, but that’s what this game’s about."