It's pretty weird being on the other end of this, huh?
For years, it had been the New England Patriots embarrassing their opponents on national television -- Beating teams on ESPN and NBC by 20, 30, 40 points with a borderline unstoppable offense and opportunistic defense... that's just what the Patriots did.
After last night's 41-14 shellacking at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs, that script has been reversed.
It's strange. It's uncomfortable. It's a feeling that hasn't been felt by this team and fanbase for nearly 15 years. More than anything, last night's game was a clear sign of this team's mortality.
But fear not -- this is not the end of days. This is not the end of the New England Patriots. There are twelve games to go. There is time for evaluation and improvement. There is time to right this ship. You need proof? In recent years, look at how some of the teams that the Patriots handed a brutish defeat were able to rebound:
2009: Tennessee Titans
Lost 59-0 to the Patriots in week 6 to drop to 0-6. Jeff Fisher was on the hot seat, and the Titans were considered the hands down worst team in football just a year after going 13-3. How did they finish? By winning eight of their last ten games and finishing .500, just one game out of the playoffs. They hit rock bottom, but finished the season as one of the hottest teams in football.
2010: New York Jets
After perhaps being prematurely declared the best team in the AFC East, the Jets fell flat against the Patriots in a humiliating 45-3 Sunday Night Football loss in week 13. But despite losing the division, the Jets righted the ship, and ended up beating those same Patriots in the Divisional Playoffs... at Gillette Stadium.
2012: Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts
Much like the Jets in 2010, the Texans were seemingly unanimously declared the AFC favorite in 2012. That was before they walked into New England in week 14 and were destroyed 42-14. The following week? They rebounded against a playoff bound Colts team, and then ended up winning a playoff game against the Bengals. In week 11, the Patriots also embarrassed those playoff bound Colts 59-24 loss. But the Colts also rebounded, with their only loss in their final five weeks being the aforementioned one to the Texans.
2013: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers were embarrassed in a 55-31 loss to the Patriots in week nine. The loss dropped them to 2-6 and seemingly diminshed their playoff hopes. What did they do next? Won six of their final eight and were a Chargers loss away from the postseason.
What should be your takeaway from this? This thing is not over yet. The history is there. The teams the Patriots have beaten down in years past have proven exactly that. Fans of those teams likely felt their squads had hit bottom as well. Nevertheless, those teams were resilient. They moved past the loss, learned from their mistakes, and found a path to become competitive again.
That's not to say the Patriots will actually end up being good. Our own Rich Hill went into great detail on what is wrong with this team. Spoiler alert: it's not a short list. Like really, there is a lot wrong with this football team.
Despite that, in all of those years where the Patriots were seemingly an immortal force (2007-2012), they finished with zero championships. The New York Giants went through stretches of what could only be described as ineptitude in 2007 and 2011. Their struggles probably were not all that dissimilar to those the Patriots are experiencing now: inconsistent quarterback play, poor coaching, underperforming defense. And how did those seasons finish for them? Two Super Bowl Championships.
The Patriots cannot simply stay the course. Serious schematic changes are needed. The Patriots need to play to their personnel on both sides of the football. A lot of the burden to turn this around is going to rest on the shoulders of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Brady needs to be the leader he was before 2013 and Belichick needs to adapt in ways he hasn't had to in nearly a decade. However, as history has shown, a turnaround is certainly possible for a team that still has the kind of talent the Patriots do.
Yes, the aura of invincibility is gone. Yes, the Patriots are back to the pack. Yes, the Patriots are now mortal. Just don't count them out yet.