An emotional Bill Belichick took the podium after New England's 26-16 AFC Championship loss to Denver.
"I'm proud of our football team. I'm proud of everything we did this year. We've got a lot of guys in that locker room that played hard, played well, gave everything they had all season long. I'm proud to be their coach."
The season is arguably one of Belichick's best coaching jobs.
Despite losing Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, and Danny Woodhead this offseason, and despite his remaining roster being ravaged by injuries -- Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Tommy Kelly, and Rob Gronkowski, to name a few -- the Patriots got to the conference title game yet again.
A remarkable effort, but not something the coach is ready to ruminate on.
"Not right now," he said with a shake of his head. "I just think about this game. Just trying to come out and win this game, trying to win the AFC Championship. That was the only thing on my mind. All the rest of it is hot air."
Belichick deferred every shred of credit to his players.
"They played competitively every single week. Some weeks we played better than others, but there was never a lack of effort. Everybody tried to do their best and I respect the team for that and what they did."
He noted being impressed by the improvements made over the course of the season.
"That's been kind of the trademark of this team is taking corrections, working hard, moving on, trying to get better, not getting caught up in what happened in the past, but just trying to do better the next time out. I think that improvement served us well all year.
"I wish we could have done a little bit better today," he said before pausing. "Especially me."
Belichick's sincerity in that pause was striking. It seemed the only time he nearly choked on disappointment was when indicting himself.
But it was only a moment. As is his way, he refused sentimentality and reflection in favor of looking to the future.
"Unfortunately, we've been here before. We've won AFC Championship games and we've lost them. We'll move on. We have to. We're behind a lot of the other teams in the league, all but one in the AFC, in terms of the offseason. We have a little bit of catching up to do. Starting tomorrow we're on to 2014."