Just when you think you know a little something, you find out...you do. But sometimes it takes a poke in the eye with a sharp stick to bring this knowledge to conscious realization. Sunday's game at Denver was just that poke for me. Ouch. Just ouch.
This is what I know that I know today:
The Patriots are the Not Quite Ready For Prime Time Players of the AFC. They have weaknesses.
Tom Brady is mortal.
The Patriots and their fans continue to be the objects of contempt from all around the NFL.
I am a lousy prognosticator of football outcomes.
That's all I know.
Even the most optimistic Patriots fan has to know that the team's weaknesses will take time to work through.
The defense that has been criticized as being a little long in the tooth the past couple of years has become a bit younger and less experienced. With the exception of Jerod Mayo, the kids are playing like, well, kids. Kids make mistakes. It's how they learn.
Meanwhile, more experienced players like Leigh Bodden, who led all defenders in the game with 10.5 tackles, and old-man-at-34 Shawn Springs, who had third most tackles on either side are criticized as being too old to be competitive.
Brandon Meriwether is finally looking like he might live up to his potential.
The defensive line has shown, for the most part, that it can survive without Richard Seymour. It is tempting to wonder how much better the line would be if he were still in Foxborough, but when the time comes to cash in on those 2011 draft picks, we will be asking, "Richard Who?"
The linebacking corps is about as strong as I have seen it in a few years, and they will only improve.
There is a distinct learning curve here. Yes, these weaknesses hurt, but we are five games into a whole new reality. These things take time.
As for Tom Brady's mortality, this would be where the team's offensive weaknesses come into play.
There really are not that many. The loss of Fred Taylor for the season comes as a blow, but the Patriots still have a ground game.
Laurence Maroney has puzzled me for years, but he has some game. Kevin Faulk has been under-utilized, in my opinion. Sammy Morris is not an every-down back, but we knew that.
And I stand by my assertion that BenJarvus Green-Ellis can contribute, given the opportunity.
The offensive line has had its problems, and those guys aren't getting any younger, but considering the size of the target on The Knee, they have done a good job protecting him.
The Patriots' playbook is complex, and the job of both protecting The Knee and providing run blocking calls for some talent and guts.
And The Knee is what it is. Brady doesn't seem to have much trouble with his mechanics at this point, but imagine: What if you hadn't put in a full day's work in 589 days? Would it take you a minute to get back with the program when you returned?
Those Who Hate would accuse me of making excuses, but that isn't what I'm doing. Again, and it bears repeating: I'm just suggesting that five games into the season is far too soon to judge anything.
All of which brings me to my third realization on the list: Almost nobody outside New England likes us. Some people IN New England don't like this team and its fans. I knew this all along, but times like these bring it front and center in my head.
These are the people who began writing the Patriots' obituary months ago. They want to see the team fail.
The media don't help. Whatever sells advertising on ESPN, aka BSPN, is beaten mercilessly into the ground. They are the people who used the word dynasty in connection with this team, not us. Sold a lot of shaving cream and pickup trucks.
The Patriots and their fans are despised because of a fabricated image of invincibility.
When Brady was injured, our misfortune sold more shaving cream, and when it became clear that he was returning, advertising rates on sports channels probably sky-rocketed, even for 3 AM infomercials.
As soon as Sunday's game was over, sites all over the Internet were flooded with "Patriots suck" comments. On NFL.com, for example, people were posting some of the foulest things I've seen yet. If I quoted any of them here, I would get booted from the site.
I don't even read these things ordinarily, and I don't know what got into me last night. I'm back to not reading them today.
And finally, I report to you that in this weekend's installment of NFL Picks from New England Patriots Fans' Perspective, I have a record of 8-5 going into tonight. That's where my breakfast of humble pie comes in, and the side dish of crow. It is most distasteful.
You thought the headline referred to the Patriots' loss on Sunday? Not on your life.
TR is a contributor to Boston Sports Then and Now.