Even the most optimistic Patriots fan wouldve had a hard time envisioning a scenario in which this years team couldve gone on the road in the playoffs and won two crucial road games after struggling away from home throughout the regular season.
Likewise, even the most pessimistic critic wouldve had a hard time making an argument against the Patriots vs. Baltimore this past weekend at home, where they finished 8-0 in 2010 and had already beaten the Ravens earlier this season.
This, as they say, is why they play the games. In what might classify as an even bigger surprise than the outcome of Super Bowl XLII, the Patriots suffered their most shocking defeat in the Bill Belichick era, getting lambasted Sunday, 33-14, in the Wild-Card playoff round at Gillette Stadium.
Even without Wes Welker, who injured his knee in the season finale, the Patriots figured to be the favorites against a mistake-prone Ravens team that hadnt shown the ability to win big road games or throw the ball effectively on a consistent basis.
Still, the Ravens jumped out to an early 24-0 lead in the opening quarter behind Ray Rices hard-nosed running and a defense that took advantage of quarterback Tom Bradys early mistakes. The deficit was far too much to overcome -- even for these Patriots -- and New England walked off the field stunned after a loss even more deflating than the one to the Giants two years ago.
There really wasnt much to feel good about in (Sundays) performance all the way around, head coach Bill Belichick said. Were all accountable for it. It starts with me. We worked long and hard this season and to finish that way is certainly a big disappointment for all of us, everybody involved.
While the time for mourning hasnt ended yet, the offseason process Belichick spoke of Monday will begin immediately. This is his way of suggesting there could be changes both on the coaching staff and with the on-field personnel. The entire team, from top to bottom, will begin self-evaluating to see which areas need to be improved upon in order to get this franchise back to prominence next season.
Said Belichick: The first thing we do is try to evaluate our team in all the things that we do -- how much motion do we use, how each player played, what type of progress was made or wasnt made, if there was a direction -- whichever way the progress was going, whether going forward or if it was declining, and take a look at the team going forward in terms of what players we have, what players we dont have and then gradually make determinations on how to improve those things.
Well take a look at all of our practices, all of our minicamps, training camp schedules, all those things. Weve done that a little bit along the way, but then we put all that together and discuss it, whether its as a coaching staff, or an organization, or sometimes in consultation with different players, whether its a specific situation or a group situation, whatever it happens to be. Its inevitable there will be change next year.
Considering the results of Sundays game, and the inconsistencies this team displayed all season, there must be change on the horizon, or else therell be another unhappy ending next season.
Its an ongoing process, Belichick said. It will be thorough and hopefully well make good decisions that will improve our football team.
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