New England tight end Ben Watson and his teammates completed a record-setting season last week, becoming the first NFL team to go 16-0 in the regular season.
The last undefeated team in the regular season was the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who ended 14-0 and went on to win Super Bowl VII.
The Patriots have a week off before meeting either Pittsburgh, Jacksonville or Tennessee in the second round of the playoffs at 8 p.m. next Saturday.
Watson, who starred at Northwestern High School and at Georgia, talked with Barry Byers, The Herald's assistant sports editor, by phone last week for a question and answer session.
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Here's what Watson had to say about New England's historic season and other topics.
After going 16-0 and setting the NFL record, would making it to the Super Bowl and not winning it be a major disappointment?
Our goal going into the season wasn't to go 16-0. We wanted to win one game at a time 16 times, then get into the playoffs and win three more. We'd be disappointed the same if we had gone 8-8 instead of 16-0 and not win the Super Bowl. There's always got to be a story in the NFL. The one going around now is can we make it to 19-0.
Was there any pressure on the team to keep winning and set the record?
At first, no. But as it kept building and the media kept writing about it, we began feeling the pressure our last four games. When we went for the record against the Giants in our final game, it was like the Super Bowl. There was more media people there than I think I've ever seen at a game. It was ridiculous. I have to credit our coach, Bill Belichick, for keeping us focused. He had some distractions of his own, but he shielded us from them.
How about the other single-season records, most points scored (589), most TD passes thrown (Tom Brady, 50), most TD passes caught by a receiver (Randy Moss, 23)?
It was a fun season. It seemed like it happened and we didn't realize it was happening until it did. The way we operate, it's business as usual at all times. But with a quarterback like Tom Brady and a receiver like Randy Moss, you can expect to see records fall.
Moss has been a media target for his negative escapades. What's he really like?
Funny and always smiling when he talks. Randy would give you the shirt off his back, but don't cross him in the wrong way. He's a genuine person, comes back to the huddle and helps other players by telling us what the defense is doing. He's a great football talent and is very smart. We're glad to have him.
There were some close games that you and your teammates were able to pull out. How did you guys keep doing it?
Our games against the Colts, Giants and Ravens come to mind right away. We were able to come back because we have confidence in ourselves. It doesn't just happen on Sunday. During the week at practice, coach Belichick puts our offense in all sorts of situations -- goal line, third and long, two-minute drills. We see it all before we get into Sunday's games and anything we do is not something we haven't run before.
Is there any team you'd rather not face again in the playoffs?
Several. There is no easy road to the Super Bowl. We hear that we are one of the greatest-ever teams and are a lock to get there, but Jacksonville, San Diego, Indy, Tennessee and Pittsburgh, they are all capable of beating us.
What did you think about so many free agent signings in the offseason, something out of character for the Patriots?
I was surprised because it didn't happen like that in my first two seasons. We brought in another tight end, Kyle Brady, and receivers Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte' Stallworth. They contributed to what we want to do and it was a matter of everyone jelling together.
You missed several games with a high ankle sprain but were able to quickly come back and play. Was it tough sitting out?
I injured it early in the season and was out two games. I missed two more after re-injuring it against Pittsburgh but came back and played against the Giants in our last game because we were out of tight ends. It was no big deal to come back. At this time of year, almost everybody is playing at about 70 percent healthy because it's a long season. That's what's good about our first-round bye. It gives us time for our injuries to heal.
Speaking of injuries, you missed nearly all of your rookie season three years ago with an ACL injury that required surgery. Do you look at this as your make-up year for missing the Super Bowl?
I hurt my ACL in our opening game, my first as a pro. It was very hard to sit and watch, especially when we won the Super Bowl. That's why I'm so excited about this season, why football players keep coming back. We want to keep winning and get to Arizona and play for the Super Bowl trophy.
After going 16-0 and breaking all of those records, is the Patriots' organization going to reward the team for its regular-season accomplishments?
I'm sure we'll probably get a handshake and a pat on the back. Nobody ever went 16-0 until we did it this year. I guess our reward was three days off before reporting back to practice again (Jan. 3). It was a nice break.
Win an autographed Ben Watson jersey
Starting Monday afternoon at heraldonline.com, you can enter to win an autographed jersey from former Northwestern star Ben Watson of the New England Patriots. Simply pick the winning team and the final score of the Super Bowl.
The fan picking the correct team and coming closest to the final score will be the winner. In case of ties, a drawing will be held to select the winner. Entries are limited to one per person and will be taken only at heraldonline.com. Deadline to enter is Saturday, Jan. 12, at noon.