A dejected Tom Brady walks off the field in Indianapolis last night following the loss.
It's going to take Patriot fans a while to get over the devastating loss that the team and, of course, it's fans just absorbed in Indianapolis.
It's not going to take long, though, for the focus of New England to turn and once again cast its glare upon the most prescient team in all of New England sports history: the Boston Red Sox.
While the Patriots have been the bright light of the new century, making five Super Bowl appearances as compared to just two World Series appearances for the Red Sox, the guys that play hardball are still the team that owns New England.
In fact, being a Red Sox fan probably taught most Patriots fans how to cope with tough losses such as what transpired on Sunday night. Was that as bad a Super Bowl XLII? Was that as bad as Game 7 in 2003? What about Game 6 in 1986 or even that one-game playoff way back in 1978?
Who knows? Who really cares? What we do know is that these types of losses stink, but we also know that there's another season coming up around the corner.
In the aftermath of that terrible Game 7 loss in 2003, no one would have thought that there would be a way to somehow make that type of loss up. Yet the Red Sox did find a way to make it up by fashioning a memorable ALCS comeback one year later.
The Patriots will be back next year, the blueprint for success is still there. Win or lose, this past season should at the very least remind Patriot fans that "success", as measured by most fan bases, is something that Patriot fans can almost take for granted.
Things such as "playoff births", "divisional titles", these are things most NFL fans hope for when the football season starts in September. Patriot fans have grown to expect them.
In between now and September, it's a safe bet that the Red Sox are going to try and make Patriot fans forget about this tough loss in Indianapolis. The Red Sox are coming off their own tough end to a season far more disappointing than this past Patriots one was.
Picked by almost everyone to win the American League East, the Red Sox ended up missing the playoffs. Not only that, but they did so by collapsing over the course of a torturous month of September.
Now the spotlight is back on the BoSox. Pitchers and catchers report in less than two weeks. The 2012 Red Sox hope to present a blueprint to the 2012 Patriots on how to bounce back from a bad ending to a what should have been a great season.
Unlike the Patriots, the Red Sox enter this season without massive expectations. The Red Sox play in arguably baseball's toughest division. Their two top divisional rivals, the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, are both coming off of playoff runs. The Yankees have been to the postseason for the past three seasons and the Rays have been there three of the past four.
In a sport in which conventional wisdom seems to suggest that pitching is the key barometer for success, both the Rays and Yankees enter the 2012 season with deeper starting rotations and, in the case of the Rays, a significant talent edge on the mound.
Yet baseball seems to provide as many twists and turns as any sport does, as its lengthy yet meaningful regular season provides ample time for both roster changes and player development. It's easy to forget, especially in the age of the instant split second Twitter feed, how many things can impact a baseball team over the course of the long season.
I know Boston sports fans who have said that the city and its fans have become too used to winning. The "underdog" role of youth has dried up and deteriorated into a yearly expectation game of titles among too many fans. There are, in fact, Boston fans who have almost come to expect titles. Somewhere in between these two opposites is where the reality lies.
For Boston sports fans that feel maligned today, I'd urge them to look at some other major cities and the recent accomplishments of their sports franchises.
In Los Angeles, the Lakers did win back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. The Dodgers haven't won or even been to a World Series since 1988, the Angels did win a World Series in 2002 but the Red Sox have won two since then and the Angels haven't even returned to the Fall Classic.
They did have an outstanding offseason and are headed toward the 2012 season with well-deserved high expectations, but as we all know, that doesn't always work out.
Los Angeles doesn't even have an NFL team, and the NHL teams, the Ducks and the Kings, have won one Stanley Cup combined.
Chicago has a Bulls team that is certainly one of basketball's elite teams. They made the conference finals last season and could make an NBA Finals run this year. The White Sox and Cubs are both in rebuilding mode with one World Series title between the two teams over the last 94 years.
The Bears famously beat the Patriots in the 1986 Super Bowl, but since then, they've been in and out of the playoffs and their last appearance in the Super Bowl was 2007, which was a 29-17 loss. In hockey, the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, but before that, they had endured a long drought in which they didn't win since 1961.
This could go on and on, but the point is that Boston sports fans still have it good. Even in the aftermath of a terrible defeat, such as last night's, the city and its teams are all highly competitive, with only the Celtics in a position to possibly miss the postseason for a prolonged stretch in the near future.
The Red Sox will be back in a few weeks, the NFL draft is coming up and so are the postseasons of both the NBA and the NHL. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are highly likely to be back in form next season. That loss last night, put it in the rear view mirror. Things could be worse. Ask any Jets or Mets fans.