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Coach makes his mark

For Belichick, 100th win was nice, if not quite super

FOXBOROUGH -- In a quiet moment after the Patriots' victory over the Raiders Thursday, one of Bill Belichick's children delivered him a poignant message.

''Congratulations, Dad."

The words had to be sweet to hear, especially because of who was delivering them and what Belichick had accomplished: career victory No. 100 as a head coach.

The milestone largely went under the radar over the last few days, which appears to be the way the 53-year-old Belichick likes it. No matter that he's the ninth active coach to reach the mark, joining Marty Schottenheimer, Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs, Bill Cowher, Mike Holmgren, Mike Shanahan, Dick Vermeil, and Dennis Green. And no matter that he's only the 33d coach in NFL history to record 100 overall wins.

Belichick is 100-72 in his career (including playoffs) and 63-27 as coach of the Patriots, the best winning percentage of any coach (.700) in team history.

Yet, in typical Belichick fashion, there was no outward celebration, no major announcement.

''I'm happy we won," he said, ''but that's not what drives me. My son congratulated me after the game. Otherwise, I really wasn't even aware of it."

What drives Belichick most is winning championships, so when he reluctantly reflected on his 100 wins, there was ''no question" which ones rank highest: the three Super Bowls. And the first one, over the Rams, has special meaning to him.

''That was such a difficult matchup for us in that game," Belichick said. ''For the team to come together and play the way they did, in those conditions and with what the game meant, that was pretty remarkable. Pretty awesome."

Then there was victory No. 1.

''It's always good to get the first one," he said.

Belichick was 39 when he brought his Cleveland Browns to Foxboro Stadium to face Dick MacPherson's Patriots. It was the second game of the 1991 season. The date? Sept. 8, same as this year's opener.

Five of Belichick's defensive backs were on the injured list (sound familiar?), but the Browns still managed to shut down second-year Patriots quarterback Tommy Hodson in a 20-0 victory. A 65-yard touchdown pass from Bernie Kosar to Michael Jackson was the game's biggest play.

Afterward, Belichick said: ''I've been in bigger games, and hopefully we will be in a lot bigger games in the future."

Belichick won 37 games in Cleveland over five years.

In addition to the Super Bowls, Belichick reflected on some of the biggest victories in his Patriots career, which would include ''all the playoff wins -- winning in Pittsburgh twice [in the 2001 and 2004 seasons], the Tennessee game here [in 2003], both the Indianapolis playoff games [in 2003 and 2004]."

One regular-season triumph that stood out came at Denver in 2003, when the Patriots took a late intentional safety on the way to a 30-26 victory. That was two games after another meaningful victory mentioned by Belichick, a 19-13 overtime decision at Miami when Troy Brown hauled in an 82-yard bomb to win it. Later that year, Willie McGinest stopped Edgerrin James at the goal line in a 38-34 victory at Indianapolis in a game ''that had a lot to do with the playoff situation."

Those weren't the only memorable wins for Belichick, just a few that immediately came to mind. Still, he's careful not to create the impression that he's reminiscing.

''I'm respectful of the league and respectful of the other coaches that have done that -- and I'm sure someday I'll look back on it differently," he said. ''But right now, what's important to me is winning the first game and getting ready for the second game."

While his team has made it look easy over the last two years, Belichick still savors each victory.

''It's hard to win a game in this league, it's tough," he said. ''So many of them come down to one or two plays. You're down to 59, 59 1/2 minutes and you still don't know who's going to win the game. It's up in the air.

''I just try to approach it one game at a time, and prepare myself and the team to be in the best possible position. It's a very competitive league and it's hard to win. Even when you don't do things perfect, and do them all right, you still have to come away from it and say, 'We got one.' "

Belichick has 100 of them, with the first and most recent coming at Foxborough.

Yet it's the next one he covets most.

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