By Simon Evans
PHOENIX (Reuters) - The New England Patriots looked anything but likely Super Bowl champions when they went in at halftime of their week four game at the Kansas City Chiefs trailing 17-0.
But for coach Bill Belichick that was the moment when his team began to show the character and spirit that led them to Sunday’s Super Bowl triumph over the Seattle Seahawks.
The Patriots had suffered a surprise defeat to AFC East divisional rivals the Miami Dolphins in week one and the loss to the Chiefs in September set off plenty of talk about whether the Belichick-Tom Brady era was coming to a close.
The Chiefs ran out 41-14 winners that Monday night but Belichick saw a sign of what was to come.
"I’d say the turning point for me this season was halftime of the Kansas City game. Obviously it didn’t go well and we weren’t in any position to win the game, but at the end of the game, in the second half, I thought our team played as hard as they could play," the coach said on Monday, the day after winning his fourth Super Bowl.
"When we got some other things straightened out and improved, we got better results, such as the following week in Cincinnati.
"I thought that at the time it was a challenge to the team at halftime (at Kansas City), and they responded. That was a key moment."
The Patriots won their next seven games and ended the season with just two more defeats.
There were no simple personnel or strategy changes that explained the turnaround, the coach said.
"I don’t think there was any big revelation. It was a day by day, practice period by practice period process where we just all worked harder to get better and fix the things that didn’t go well in both the coaching and the playing standpoint.
"It’s a long process. We got better on a consistent basis throughout the course of the year. Last night was a finished product.”
Belichick was also fulsome in praise of Brady, his quarterback who threw four touchdowns on Sunday and was named the game’s most valuable player.
“He’s our leader. He competes as well as any player I’ve ever coached. He’s well-prepared. He has great poise and great presence. He’s been a great pillar of strength for our football team for the past decade and a half,” Belichick said.
(Editing by Gene Cherry)