After all the buildup to the pursuit of a fourth Super Bowl title for Tom Brady and the gang, the New England Patriots' 28-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game felt like a needle to an Aerobed.
In the wake of a blowout loss, fans and columnists like to craft whole narratives about the winning and losing teams. For the Patriots, the headlines today malign them for having "fear in their eyes" or cite this game as evidence that their reign of dominance in the NFL is crumbling.
Funny, when the New York Jets made it to back-to-back AFC Championship games, it sure seemed like they were peaking.
Here's the larger point I'm trying to make: Yes, the Patriots weren't Super Bowl-worthy this year. They had their worst game at the worst time and got beat by a more deserving team.
But they've also got a young and improving defense, a balanced offense with a remarkable array of weapons and a Hall of Fame quarterback who showed no signs of slowing down in 2012-13.
Let's take a look at five things the Pats can do to bring a fourth Lombardi trophy to New England in 2014.