By Tom E. Curran
FOXBORO - "It feels like we lost the Super Bowl," said outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain. How so? "Because that's what losing in the playoffs mean," he explained. "You lose the game and the chance to win the Super Bowl, too, both at once."As the Patriots quietly bagged up the belongings from their lockers - all manners of cleats, letters, t-shirts, sweatshirts, etc. - they stopped to reflect early Monday afternoon on a season halted before they were ready for it to end. But the page-turning was underway as well. "There's still a little disappointment floating around, but we still have a lot of stuff to look forward to," said wide receiver Deion Branch. Like?"Next season," he pointed out. "We can't dwell on this year. The bigger picture we can all look at is that, the season didn't end the way we wanted it to end, but once we look at itI think we still have a lot of stuff to hang our hats on. We had a great year. Finished 14-2. Best team in the league in the regular season, but we weren't in the postseason. We see the things we need to tighten up on. You have to look at all the teams that are still playing, we beat all those teams."He's right. TheJets, Steelers, Bears and Packers all got laid low by New England. Now the Patriots aregoing to have to lie low for the next few months and lick the sizable wound leftby the Jets. Branch said Belichick highlighted the good in the season-closing address to the team Monday."He spoke about a lot of things,a lot of positive things," said Branch. "Even though the situation ended with negative, he spoke about a lot of positive things."Many Patriots will now light out for their homes. Those with rehab responsibilities - like kicker Stephen Gostkowski and outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich (torn LCL on Sunday) - will be around the facility as they get back to full strength. Defensive tackle Gerard Warren is one of the veterans who'll be a free agect when the seaon ends. He doesn't want to go anwhere else. The reason? "Professionalism. And a mission statement that says finishing the way we finished is not how we want to finish. The season is not a good season without winning it all. I could play for that forever."