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All-business Belichick expects a close game

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The pomp and circumstance surrounding the AFC Championship game has rolled back into New England, but Patriots head coach Bill Belichick isn't one to play into the hype.

Standing next to the Lamar Hunt trophy, which his team will try to defend on Sunday, the stone-faced Belichick was hardly chipper for his Wednesday news conference, broadcast live on national television.

Belichick set the tone from the start, when a reporter from New York kicked off the Q-and-A with a big-picture question on Belichick being the longest-tenured NFL head coach.

"I really haven't thought much about it. I'm just trying to think about the Ravens," Belichick said. "We're trying to get ready to win the AFC Championship Game. I'm not too concerned about how long I've been here. I don't really care about all of that, with all due respect."

Undeterred, the reporter asked if Belichick's legacy was an issue to him.

"Right now I'm trying to beat the Ravens," Belichick fired back. "That's what our football team's challenge is, that's what we're focused on. And the rest of it is for another time or another place."

The demeanor, of course, was a calculated move by the veteran coach. The Ravens may have lost four of their final five regular season games, but Belichick's message was clear: This game is the biggest challenge the Patriots have faced this season.

"They've shown that they can handle difficult situations, whether it's playing on the road, or the double-overtime game last week against Denver, or whatever the challenges are, they stand up to them," Belichick said. "They're as good as any team we've played this year, better than most, and I think that's the way it should be."

Belichick pointed out that four of the last five Patriots-Ravens games have come down to the final play, including the teams' Week 3 tilt in Baltimore earlier this season.

"We're playing a team that we have a great game with earlier in the season," Belichick said. "It came down to the last play, and we don't really expect anything much less than that this time around."