With the final goal accomplished, the Patriots must now play the waiting game.
After beating Miami in Sunday's season finale to finish the regular season with a 14-2 record (tied for the second best in franchise history), the top-seeded Patriots will have a first-round bye in the playoffs.
This means they get to sit back and relax this weekend and watch everyone else fight it out in the wild-card round while simultaneously doing their own scouting in advance of their postseason opener in two weeks.
The Patriots will either host the Jets, Chiefs or Ravens next Sunday.
"When we left here last night we were 14-2," head coach Bill Belichick said. "This morning we're 0-0."
The Patriots rarely reflect on their accomplishments when there's still something left to be accomplished -- in this case, they're still in the hunt for another Super Bowl title -- but Belichick admitted the greatest strength of this year's team is its consistency.
"They come to work every day, they want to improve, they want to get better, and I think that's a great attitude to have. We can all get better. Once you identify what those (areas of improvement) are, you work at it, and then generally, eventually, it will improve, it will get better.
"Our players for most part have done a good job taking constructive criticism, and more importantly, trying to do something about it... The next game we play will be the toughest game of the year, we know that. Whatever we did in the past, it needs to be better, it needs to be our best. However we can improve our performance between now and then, I think all of us should do what we can to address that. That's our commitment to each other."
Since the Patriots can't zero in on one particular opponent yet, they're going to do some self-scouting this week in hopes of improving whatever minor flaws they might have heading into the playoffs.
"We're going to spend these next few days working on things that we feel we need to work on, regardless of who we play," Belichick said. "There're certainly a lot of things that we can improve on and do a better job of technique-wise, assignment-wise and our overall execution. We'll do our preparation on the three teams that we could possibly play, but we won't know which one that is until after this weekend's games.
"So, until we can specifically tailor those improvement and adjustments and corrections to a particular team, we'll just have to do it on a generic basis to try and help ourselves get better for whomever that next opponent happens to be."
--With Sunday's win, the Patriots finished the season 14-2. Bill Belichick is the first head coach ever to win at least 14 regular-season games in four separate seasons.
Only four other coaches -- San Francisco's George Seifert (3), Washington's Joe Gibbs (2), Chicago's Mike Ditka (2) and Miami's Don Shula (2) -- have more than one 14-win season.
--The Patriots had just five passes intercepted in 2010, tying the NFL mark for fewest interceptions in a single season.
New England attempted 507 passes in 2010, with just five resulting in interceptions. The other teams to have only five interceptions in a season were the 1960 Cleveland Browns, the 1966 Green Bay Packers, the 1990 Kansas City Chiefs and the 1990 New York Giants.
--With a total of 38 points against the Dolphins, the Patriots finished the season with 518 points, a total that ranks seventh in NFL history.
The Patriots averaged 32.4 points per game. New England set an NFL record with 589 points in 2007.
--WR Julian Edelman set a franchise record with a 94-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter Sunday. The Patriots' previous longest punt return was an 89-yard touchdown return by Mike Haynes in 1976.
--Rookie CB Devin McCourty finished with seven interceptions this season after picking off a pass Sunday. McCourty's seven interceptions are the second-highest rookie total in franchise history, trailing Haynes's eight interceptions in 1976
--Rookie TE Rob Gronkowski caught his 10th touchdown reception of the season Sunday on a 13-yard pass from QB Tom Brady in the first quarter. Gronkowski set a team rookie record for receiving touchdowns in a season, moving past WR Jim Colclough and WR Randy Vataha, who each had nine.
--RB Danny Woodhead finished the season with 97 rushes for 551 yards, with his average of 5.68 yards per carry setting a new team record (minimum 90 rushing attempts). Woodhead topped Don Calhoun's previous team mark of 5.59 yards per carry in 1976.
--QB Tom Brady threw just four interceptions on 492 attempts in 2010, for a 0.81 interception percentage. That mark is the third best in NFL history and the best among all quarterbacks in league history who had at least 250 pass attempts in their low-interception season.
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