BOSTON (CBS) – With a 23-16 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, the New England Patriots clinched their fourth straight AFC East crown and ninth in the last 10 seasons.
With that comes a new hat and t-shirt for Bill Belichick to add to his ever-growing collection.
“It’s good to have,” he said with a smirk following the win. “It’s always good to get one.”
“It means something,” said receiver Wes Welker. “I guess you get kind of spoiled at times. It’s kind of just a hat and t-shirt, but they’re not easy to come by.”
But after the game there was no big celebration. Belichick and the Patriots know there is still a lot to be accomplished before getting the hat and t-shirt they really want; one that reads “Super Bowl XLVII Champs.”
“We have a long way to go. We still have a quarter of the season left,” Belichick said. “And that’s a lot of opportunities for us to improve, which we need to do.”
“You move on in strides. We know that we accomplished something, but in the grand scheme of things we still have a long season to play,” said nose tackle Vince Wilfork. “The upcoming weeks are going to be very tough, starting with Houston. We know how important it is to get back on track and stay grounded as a team to push forward one game at a time.”
“It feels good,” linebacker Jerod Mayo said of winning the division, before echoing what the rest of the team had to say. “We’re going to enjoy this one, but at the same time it’s time to move forward and turn the page.”
Quarterback Tom Brady became the first starting quarterback in NFL history with 10 division titles, but he was more focused on the Patriots record against AFC East foes than anything else after the game.
“We’re 5-0 in the division. That’s a pretty good mark against teams that always play us tough,” said Brady. “That’s what it takes, you have to beat the teams in your division.”
Brady also added the Patriots a long way from thinking about the big game in February.
“You can’t play in that game without improving through the month of December,” Brady said of the Super Bowl. “And November, December, that’s when it’s really important. I think we’ve done that. We keep working hard. We listen to our coaching. We’ve won some great games here the past six weeks.”
The Patriots now sit at 9-3 on the season, but are still looking up at the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens in the standings.