Some mock the notion of a trap game. Prior to Sunday's 34-14 beatdown at the hands of the previously 2-5 Cleveland Browns, some of those doing the mocking may have been in the New England locker room.
But after getting their proverbial hats handed to them on the road to end a five-game winning streak, it's clear the still young and relatively inexperienced Patriots plan on being a different team after the lesson that was learned the hard way on Sunday in Cleveland.
A day removed from the embarrassing effort, having watched the film, the story in New England was about learning from the debacle and moving on. After looking at the tape, Bill Belichick concluded that, "The fact that we lost by 20 points -- that's really not that surprising."
"It certainly wasn't our best effort. I'll say that. It definitely was an eye-opener," cornerback Kyle Arrington said.
"That wasn't our best game," echoed wide receiver Deion Branch. "We just have to come out and prepare a whole lot better than what we did last week ... we didn't prepare good, we didn't practice good, and it showed up in the game."
Though none of the players would say so directly, they appeared to offer tacit admissions that perhaps the Patriots took the Browns for granted, or at least didn't treat their preparation the way they normally do.
"I'm aware that we didn't play well. Every play matters. Every team we play matters," said tight end and co-captain Alge Crumpler, who placed an emphasis on the words 'team we play.'
There's also a sense that the team is already taking its medicine and expecting a long, hard week of work ahead before a Sunday night trip to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers.
"Ah ... it's going to be a different team," Branch continued. "We expect a totally different team ... lesson learned. We didn't even have to watch the film. There was a lot of bad football out on that field Sunday. We know we're a better team than that. I was mad all last night, couldn't sleep, because I knew I could've played better. I think a lot of guys in this locker room would say that."
"I leave all my anger for game day," Crumpler stated. "I'm focused on the Pittsburgh Steelers right now.
"Our goal is to be positive about it ... when you have a loss like this, self-evaluation is the No. 1 goal. I've had awesome weeks of practice and lost a ballgame; I've had bad weeks and won a game."
"Yeah, it hurt a little bit," Arrington said of watching the game film. "We definitely could have been more aware yesterday of what was going on, but ... everything happens for a reason and there's a silver lining. Hopefully, we can learn from this and move forward.
"We can't come out on the field and, just because we're the Patriots, we can expect everything to go our way. We have to get off to a better start."
The best start would be a productive Wednesday practice to kick off a key week. After a five-game winning streak, Sunday's surprising loss leads into the trip to Pittsburgh followed by a visit from Peyton Manning's Colts. Without a team's best effort, best preparation, that could easily be a three-game losing streak.
That's where the young Patriots stand this week, coming off their worst effort of the season and locking to get the ship righted quickly to remain competitive in the coming weeks among the best teams in football.
--The season just keeps getting more and more unpredictable, not just in New England, but throughout the entire league.
On an afternoon in which the Jets nearly lost to the hapless Lions and the Raiders rallied to beat Kansas City for their third consecutive win, the team with the best record in football got smoked by the Browns.
The Patriots limped home Sunday following a 34-14 defeat, eliminating all the good vibes emanating from the previous week's big win over Minnesota that, at the time, gave New England the league's best record at 6-1.
"They deserved to be doing back flips (Sunday)," quarterback Tom Brady said of the Browns. "I don't think we did really anything well in any phase of the game. I don't think it's one of those games that we took lightly. We knew we were in for a dogfight just the way the game started. After the first three or four minutes of the game, we knew what kind of a game it was going to be for the rest of the day.
"We just didn't do enough in any phase of the game offensively to put drives together and sustain drives to eventually get the ball in the end zone. It's a frustrating day, there's no doubt about it."
The Patriots made several uncharacteristic mistakes, two by rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski. On one play, Gronkowski called for a fair catch on a kickoff and then let the ball drop untouched, allowing Cleveland to recover. Then toward the end of the half, he caught a pass inside the 5-yard line and fumbled trying to muscle his way into the end zone. Instead of the Patriots potentially trimming Cleveland's lead to 17-14, the turnover kept the Browns' lead at 17-7 at the break.
"We were prepared," Brady said. "We were plenty prepared, and we were forewarned 50 times last week. And we've got to take the coaching a lot better and get back to playing the way we need to play, and if we don't, then that's the outcome, so I don't think we sit here and sulk and say, 'Man, we can't do anything. We suck.'
"We don't suck. If we play like we played (Sunday), we suck, but we know we're capable of playing better than that. We've got to go out there and do it."
Now it's onto the next challenge, which is a showdown this weekend against the Steelers in a game that could play a factor in playoff seeding.
"(Sunday) was disappointing," linebacker Jerod Mayo said, "but at the same time, if we can learn something from this, then it was worth it."
--Receiver Wes Welker extended his streak to 71 consecutive regular-season games with at least one reception. He has caught at least one pass in each of his 57 games with the Patriots, including three postseason games.
The last time that Welker did not catch a pass in a game was Dec. 24, 2005, when he was with the Dolphins.
--Tight end Aaron Hernandez led the team with five receptions for 48 yards against Cleveland and now has 34 receptions in 2010 to go along with his 436 receiving yards.
The Patriots' franchise records for rookie tight ends are 37 receptions (by Greg Baty in 1986) and 636 receiving yards (by Russ Francis in 1975).
--Quarterback Tom Brady's 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez moved him to sole possession of 17th place on the all-time list, and his 1-yard touchdown pass to Hernandez moved him into a 16th-place tie with Len Dawson at 239 career touchdown tosses.
This report courtesy of The Sports Xchange.