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BOSTON (CBS) – The New England Patriots finished the regular season 13-3, tops in the AFC, and broke a few records along the way.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick became the first coach to ever have five 13-win seasons, reaching the mark in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2011 .
“Really, I think it’s a compliment to the players. They’re the ones that won them and went out there and earned all those wins. I didn’t make any blocks or make and tackles or catch any balls or make any kicks,” Belichick said of the milestone after Sunday’s 49-21 win over the Bills. “It’s been a privilege for me to coach some of the great players that I’ve had the opportunity to coach in my career, both as an assistant and head coach. I think all those wins are reflective of the team and the players that were out there making the plays. They’re the ones that really deserve the credit.”
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And credit they will get. Tom Brady became only the third quarterback in NFL history to hit the 5,000 yard mark, finishing the season with 5,235 yards. That is second to only Drew Brees’ 2011 total of 5,476 yards, and ahead of Dan Marino’s 1984 record that fell this season. Brady finished with 39 touchdowns, making him the first quarterback to have two 39-touchdown seasons to him name. This year’s touchdown total is second only to his 50-touchdown season in 2007.
But to Brady, personal stats mean little.
“I play this game for one reason and it’s to win. There’s nothing more important to me than that,” he said. “As a quarterback you do everything you can do to help this team win. When your number is called upon to go out and execute certain plays, that’s what you’re expected to do. It’s not something I think about, it’s not something I ever [think], ‘Man, I love throwing touchdowns,’ or ‘I love throwing for yards.’ I love winning and that helps me sleep at night.”
Brady wouldn’t have been able to hit those marks without some strong receiving play. He got that from both Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski, who set records of their own.
Welker set a Patriots franchise record with 1,569 receiving yards on 122 catches, topping Randy Moss’ previous mark of 1,493 yards in 2007. This was Welker’s second season with 120+ catches, making him just the second receiver in NFL history to have two 120+ catch seasons.
Gronkowsi’s second NFL season is among the best ever by a tight end. Gronk set the NFL record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,327, first beating Kellen Winslow’s record set in 1980, and then retaking this season’s NFL lead away from New Orlean’s Jimmy Graham with a 22-yard reception in the final minutes against Buffalo. The Patriots chose to throw to Gronkowski one last time to give him the record, something he was grateful of after the game.
“It means a lot, man, that they’re willing to do that [when] we could [have] taken a knee and just make sure no one gets hurt,” Gronk said. “It’s just an honor to play here. That’s why I love playing here, great teammates, great coaches, and everyone’s just a team here and nothing would get accomplished here without everyone.”
Gronkowski had already set the record for receiving touchdowns by a tight end, and finished the season with 17 receiving touchdowns and 18 total. He and fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez also combine for the most receptions by a tight end duo in NFL history, hauling in 169 passes this season. They crushed the 129 receptions Dallas’ Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett combined for last season.
The Patriots offense was not done though, tying an NFL record with 12 30+ point games this season. The 1999 St. Louis Rams and 2007 Patriots also had 12 30+ point games during their seasons.
With all the good came some bad though. The New England secondary surrendered 4,703 yards this season, which was the worst in NFL history until Green Bay let Detroit’s Matthew Stafford pass all over them. Green Bay ended up finishing with 4,796 yards given up through the air. The Patriots won’t mind finishing second when it comes to that record.
But in the end, all Bill Belichick cares about is winning football games, not the amount of yards given up in the process.
“It’s good to be 13-3. That’s our goal – to win every week. I know that’s not a big priority with everybody else, but it’s a big priority with us,” the coach said. “If we win at the end of the day, then we’ve done more good things than bad. Is there room for improvement? There’s always room for improvement.”
Now the Pats have an extra week to work in those improvements before the real season begins.
The Patriots have a first-round bye, but be sure to tune in to a special playoff edition of Patriots GameDay Sunday January 8 at 11:30am on WBZ-TV.