It is time for Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft to have an open conversation.
It's how they lost. The Ravens were tougher, more prepared, fearless and up for the challenge.
The Ravens wanted it more and went out on the field and took it. For the Patriots going into the long winter, that will be a tough truth to acknowledge again.
Today, the Patriots have an image problem. They have become the schoolyard bully who can't take a punch from the kids that they pick on, something the Ravens players acknowledged after the game in this report from ESPN Boston's Jackie MacMullen and David Lefort.
Beating up on the other teams has become commonplace for the Patriots, as the team holds a 146-46 record since 2001, with seven AFC Championship appearances, five Super Bowls and three Super Bowl victories.
It's a dynasty that may never be repeated in the history of the NFL given the parity of the league.
But, when the Patriots lose they become the poorest of poor sports and it is obvious to everyone who follows football and the team. Terrell Suggs couldn't wait to rip into the Patriots in this article from NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal.
The Patriots have done a remarkable job of rebuilding on the fly, continuing and sustaining a run of excellence over the last 12 seasons that is the envy of the rest of the NFL and may never happen again.
It gets lost when Brady is continually outplayed by the other teams' quarterbacks and he doesn't hold himself accountable for his poor performance. How does Joe Flacco continually outplay Brady?
Patriots' owner Robert Kraft needs to sit down with Belichick and Brady at some point in the near future and talk about legacy. He needs to get their attention. He needs to tell them things they don't want to hear.
He needs to tell them how poorly they are viewed nationally, how teams and fans delight in seeing them fail. He needs to remind them that they are eight years removed from their last Super Bowl victory, that the cachet from those wins is fading in the background.
He needs to tell Belichick that it looks like he has started to believe his press clippings and his "genius" label. He needs to tell Brady that he looks like he has gone Hollywood and that the game doesn't seem to matter as much to him as it did 10 years ago.
Do the Patriots have an image problem?
A little humility from both men would go a long way towards cementing their legacy.
The Patriots likely have three seasons left with the tandem of Belichick and Brady, the most successful coach-QB combo in the history of the game.
Belichick could retire today and be viewed as the greatest coach in NFL history. Brady could retire as the greatest quarterback in the history of the game. But they also could both potentially be viewed as classless by most of the NFL and its fans.
The Patriots' greatness is getting lost in the perceived and real arrogance, in being poor sports, sore losers and being unaccountable as good ambassadors of the game.
Anyone can handle themselves well when they are winning. You're judged on how you handle yourself when things aren't going well and you lose. For someone as deeply ingrained in the history of the game as Belichick, you'd think he would understand that.
It is time for someone to remind him of that. This is where a beloved owner like Kraft needs to step in and remind a great coach and quarterback of the employer/employee relationship and always putting the brand first.
Right now Belichick and Brady's behavior are not reflecting well on the Patriots. It's the elephant in the room that needs to be addressed.
Hopefully, Robert Kraft will have this conversation before it is too late.
Game recap and box score from ESPN