FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Bill Belichick was happy to answer the question, because who wouldn't like to respond to the impressive accomplishment of ensuring a post-merger-record 17th consecutive winning season?
At the same time, his answer spoke volumes as how the New England Patriots have managed to pull off such an impressive feat.
"That's what we're here for -- to win games. We take a lot of pride in it. That means a lot to us. But that being said, there's probably another time to talk about that and reflect on it and so forth," he said. "None of those other -- however many seasons it was or however many games it was -- really makes any difference this week. I mean, nobody cares about that.
"This is just strictly a matchup between the Patriots and the Bills in 2017, and how these two teams compete against each other is really what it's all about. So I don't think living in the past is going to help us, and I don't think living in the future is going to help us either."
There it is, lesson No. 1 in the Belichick coaching approach.
Short. Term. Focus.
He is always locked in on the next challenge, with little tolerance for anything -- such as the bigger-picture buzz -- that can distract from it.
This is what some of Belichick's confidants in the coaching ranks have highlighted as a big part of the Patriots' greatness, with Tony La Russa -- during a visit to practice in August -- saying: "I believe his ability and his staff's ability, and his team's ability to start at zero every year -- refuse to think about last year -- is an important part of why they are so consistent. It's true in our sport, too, like what Bobby Cox did in Atlanta. It's easy to celebrate the next year. The ability to turn the clock to zero is really impressive and very hard."
In clinching a 17th straight season with a winning record, the Patriots broke a post-merger three-way tie with Dallas (1970-85) and San Francisco (1983-98), both of which had 16.
"I was kid growing up in San Mateo [California] when the Niners were doing that too. I mean, they didn't do it for as long as we've done it, but it's pretty cool," quarterback Tom Brady said after Sunday's win over the Dolphins. "Obviously, the expectations are really high because of what teams in the past have done and I think the guys that come and sit in these chairs right here and look up at Coach Belichick and understand kind of what we're playing for and the history of the team and the expectations."
Since 2001, the Patriots' streak of 17 seasons with nine-plus wins is followed by Indianapolis (12), Green Bay (12), Pittsburgh (12), Philadelphia (11), Seattle (11) and Baltimore (10).
The all-time record for most consecutive winning seasons, when accounting for before the 1970 merger, is Dallas with 20 (from 1966-85).
As for the Patriots' place in history, Belichick wasn't about to expound on that.
"Whatever did or didn't happen in the past is a matter of record, so I'll leave the commentary on that to you guys," he said. "I think we really need to just focus on what we're doing."