By George Bremer
CNHI News Service
INDIANAPOLIS -- The first surprise of Super Bowl week came early Sunday
Bill Belichick smiled.
Not only that, the famously gruff New England Patriots head coach laughed
and joked with the assembled media about the reaction he expects from
"I've never had too much hospitality here until I went for it on
fourth-and-2," Belichick said to a roomful of laughter. "That created a
lot more friendly environment."
Belichick was referencing his 2009 regular season decision not to punt
from deep in his own territory while protecting a small late
fourth-quarter lead against the Indianapolis Colts.
The short pass play the Patriots called failed to gain two yards, and
Peyton Manning quickly answered with a game-winning touchdown pass to
That comeback victory was part of a 14-0 start for Indianapolis that
helped propel the Colts to the AFC championship and a spot in Super Bowl XLIV.
Two years later, Tom Brady and his New England teammates arrived back in
Indianapolis with an AFC crown of their own.
Brady said it actually feels good to be in this city and not be preparing
to play against the Colts.
"We drove by Lucas Oil Stadium on the way in, and you see (defensive end)
Dwight Freeney's picture up there," he said. "To come to Indy and not play
him is definitely a relief. He's terrorized me for a long time, and I'll
be terrorized by some other players in some other uniforms this week."
Clearly, this is a relaxed New England team.
And why not? Next Sunday's Super Bowl will be the fifth for Brady and
Belichick as a quarterback-coaching tandem.
A Patriots win would give Brady four NFL titles, tying him with childhood
idol Joe Montana of San Francisco and Pittsburgh's Terry Bradshaw for the
most ever by a quarterback.
A New England victory also would give Belichick four championships, tying
him with one his idols -- Pittsburgh's Chuck Noll -- for the most ever by
a head coach.
Both men, however, moved quickly to dispel talk of personal records.
"We'll try to make sure we focus on what we're really here for, and that's
our performance on Sunday night and our preparation for that performance,"
Belichick said. "We talked about that. This team has been great all year
in terms of their focus and preparation. We've been in big games, none as
big as this one, but plenty of big games during the course of the year. So
hopefully that will serve us well in our preparation this week."
It's been four years since the Patriots last appeared in the NFL's title
game -- a relative eternity in the Brady-Belichick era. And New England
last won the Super Bowl seven years ago in Jacksonville, Fla.
The Patriots' most recent appearance ended with a loss against the New
York Giants in Glendale, Ariz., in 2008.
The Giants again will be the opponent next week, but Belichick said too
many faces have changed on both sides for this game to hold any element of
"I've been asked about that game for several days now," Belichick said,
"but really all the games in the past don't really mean too much at this
The Patriots will train at the Colts' practice facility on West 56th
Street. The two proud franchises once comprised the best rivalry in the NFL.
But Indianapolis is coming off a 2-14 season and starting over with a new
general manager, a new head coach and, perhaps, a new quarterback.
New England's players are well aware many Colts fans would like nothing
better than to see the Patriots fall short on football's grandest stage again.
But Brady said nothing is going to keep him from enjoying this week.
"It's great to be here," he said. "Regardless of where you play, the Super
Bowl is a great experience for all of us. I've been very fortunate in my
career. It'll be my fifth time. You try to communicate to the younger
players how special it is to be here because you really do never know when
you're going to come back again."