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Michael Dwyer, Associated Press
Craig Bodnar, center left, and Vin Puccio, center right, both of Boston, react while watching, at a bar in Boston, the broadcast of the NFL football Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012.

BOSTON — It was like 2008 all over again for disappointed Patriots fans who watched as their team lost Sunday to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl for the second time in five years.

"We're really sad right now," said Molly Mackenzie of Boston, who was watching the game at a bar near Fenway Park with two friends. "It was a good game, really close."

Hundreds of police officers in riot gear gathered in the streets, focusing on the areas near college campuses and sports bars, where previous celebrations had turned wild. Many were brought in from other departments to help out. But after the Giants won 21-17, fans quietly filed back to cars and public transit stations, past the officers lining the streets.

At Game On, a bar near Fenway, the atmosphere was tense until people started chanting, "Let's Go Pats, Let's Go Pats," with about five minutes and 30 seconds left to go and the Patriots up by 2. Then the Giants scored a touchdown, knocking the wind out of their sails. The bar stayed full until the final seconds, when Tom Brady's desperation pass into the end zone fell just beyond Rob Gronkowski's grasp.

"It was very disappointing," said Karen Snyder of Boston, who was celebrating her birthday Sunday. "Defensively, we should have done better. We weren't ready for when the Giants changed up their offense."

Earlier in the night, the crowd got quiet when the Patriots trailed in the first half, then erupted into dancing, fist-pumping and shouting when they took the lead with a touchdown right before halftime.

"You know Brady," said Frank Monti, a fan from New York City. "He's good for fourth-quarter wins. I'm not worried."

At McGreevy's 3rd Base Saloon in the city's Back Bay neighborhood, where six large TVs and a framed oval portrait of Coach Bill Belichick hung over the bar, manager Art Santora said he had met with the police and the liquor commission to talk about safety measures. No one was being allowed to line up outside to get into the packed bar — once it was full that was it.

Dave Anderson, who was visiting from Denver and declared himself a Patriots fan for the weekend, joined a standing room crowd at McGreevys. Across the street, the top of the Prudential Center was lit up in the Patriots colors of red, white and blue.

"You can tell that there are no fair weather fans in Boston," Anderson said.

Victor Janczar arrived in plenty of time from Chicopee, in western Massachusetts, because he and his girlfriend wanted to be with other Patriots fans. They're such serious fans that they purposely flew JetBlue on a trip back from California so they could watch the Patriots play San Diego in Week 2 of the NFL season on the seat-back televisions. They predicted a close game Sunday but thought the Patriots would pull it out, 27-24.

"It'll really depend on how well the Patriots' defense can cover New York's receivers," Janczar said before the game.

Not all that well, as it turned out.

"The good news is that the defense can't get any worse," said Keith Versteegden of Red Deer, Alberta, a student in Boston, who declared the game "depressing" afterward.

Said Chris Sondej, a student in Boston University's College of Management said: "It was heartbreaking when (Wes) Welker dropped that pass in the third quarter."

He also noted the game could have implications for the legacy of the team's quarterback and coach.

"Brady doesn't have that many years left in him," he said. "We'll see what comes of the Brady-Belichick team after this."