FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England's 28-14 loss to the New York Jets early in the season doesn't mean much to Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
Neither does the 45-3 win on Dec. 6 that gave the Patriots a split of the season series.
The postseason is a new season for the coach of the team with the NFL's best record. For Belichick, past results have little effect on future games.
"Now it will be best two out of three. It's probably the way it should be," he said Sunday when he began to focus on the Jets, the Patriots' opponent in the AFC divisional round. "I don't think the last game or even the first game, either one of those games is going to mean a whole lot."
The Jets (12-5) earned another game next Sunday at the home of the Patriots (14-2) by beating the Indianapolis Colts 17-16 on Nick Folk's game-ending 32-yard field goal on Saturday night.
Belichick had seen that kind of finish before. In two of his three Super Bowl championships with the Patriots, he watched Adam Vinatieri kick winning field goals as time expired and with 4 seconds left.
On Saturday, he saw Vinatieri put the Colts ahead 16-14 on a 50-yarder with 53 seconds to go. But he knew it wasn't over. There was too much time left.
"In this league, you don't think it's over until the final gun goes off," Belichick said during a conference call. "Whether we're playing in the game or whether I'm watching the game, till it's over, we've seen a lot of things happen at the end of the game. That's why the ratings are so high. People don't turn off their sets. (They) watch and wait and see how it turns out."
That's what Belichick did.
But once he learned the identity of his next opponent, he didn't dive right into his notes and film on the Jets.
"I'm not really much of a night person," he said.
On Sunday, though, it was "full speed ahead" in preparing to face New York for a third time this season.
In the first meeting, the Patriots led 14-7 after scoring with 53 seconds left in the first half. Folk kicked a 49-yard field goal on the last play of the half and the Jets outscored the Patriots 18-0 after that with a punishing ground game, the same approach that led them from a 7-0 halftime deficit at Indianapolis.
The Jets were no match the second time around when the Patriots scored on their first four possessions and led 24-3 at halftime.
"Obviously, they didn't have a good night that night," Belichick said. "But they do a good job running the ball. They've got big play receivers and tight ends. They do what they do on defense — a lot of man coverage, and they're pretty physical on the front line.
"I don't think they're a whole lot different than, really, what they've been all year. They do a lot of things well."
With Mark Sanchez at quarterback, the Jets are 2-2 against the Patriots. The teams went into their most recent matchup tied for the AFC's best record at 9-2. Their lifetime record against each other, including playoffs, is 51-51-1.
"Even though we're familiar with them and they're familiar with us, it feels like every time you play a team, games go a lot differently," Belichick said.
No matter how well they know each other, and how diligently they prepare, some new twists are sure to pop up.
"You've had 16, 17 games, whatever it is, not counting preseason, and another 100 and some practices, so I think everybody probably has got a lot of options in their playbook or in their system," Belichick said. "It's a question of what you want to do, what you feel like is best to choose from."
As usual, he preferred to talk about his own team rather than the opponent.
So "you have to ask" the Jets if the recent rout will have a lingering emotional effect, he said. And he sidestepped a question about New York coach Rex Ryan saying Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gets more help from Belichick than Peyton Manning gets from his coaches on the Colts.
"I just try to coach our team," Belichick said. "I think you have to ask Rex or somebody else about that. Whoever said it, whatever the context was, I don't know."
His task is getting his team ready to face Ryan's team again.
That includes making sure young players who have contributed so much this season — rookies such as Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez — know the difference between the regular season and the playoffs.
"If you lose," Belichick said, "you go home."