After their humiliating beatdown on Sunday, you might be tempted to look back on Sunday as the day the New England Patriots' dynasty died. You are definitely not alone.
Even though they haven't won a Super Bowl in five years, plenty of people have lined up in the last 24 hours to write the eulogy for the Belichick/Brady Era. It usually starts by mentioning the banners at Gillette Stadium, then leads to a discussion of the fear they once (and no longer) inspired in opponents, followed by a digression about the arrogance of Boston sports fans, before pointing out that the Pats have six first- and second-round draft picks in the next two seasons. It's a formula, but it works.
Here's a sampling of what folks had to say about The Defeat:
Disaster always had stayed foreign to these Patriots, some evil force that only other teams needed to worry about. They might not win. They never would collapse and embarrass themselves. They never would let five minutes unravel their entire season.
And then yesterday came, and the Baltimore Ravens swaggered into Gillette Stadium, and disaster struck. The Patriots allowed a touchdown on the first snap. Their crowd booed them. Tom Brady crumbled. In their first playoff game of the new decade, the Patriots may have lost the final bit of the dynastic mystique they created in the last one.
—Over and rout [Adam Kilgore, Boston Globe]
Whatever New England once was is gone. Whatever it once stood for has been desecrated. It's not that the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady Patriots can't ever rebound and become contenders again. They return great talent, have a number of young stars and a slew of draft picks in the upcoming NFL draft. It's just that if they are ever to be a feared team deserving the ultimate in respect, they'll have to re-earn it.
— Pats have to rebuild aura of invincibility [Dan Wetzel, Yahoo Sports]
The harsh truth is that it's temporarily over for New England fans and this news will be wildly applauded around the rest of the country.
— After Patriots blown out of playoffs, has Boston's title reign ended? [Dan Shaughnessy]
Someone asked me last week if I thought the Pats were "sleepers" in the playoffs. I thought they were, and I would never bet against a Brady-led team at home in the postseason. But what I saw yesterday showed me that this team - which isn't very young at some key skill positions - could be in trouble in the future. The Jets and the Dolphins, two young and very talented teams, are going to improve for the 2011 season. Buffalo will hire a new coach and install a new system, so maybe it's time to wonder if that AFC East dominance is over.
— Is the Patriots' run over? [Matt Bowen, National Football Post]
You don't see a team get thumped like this at home, falling behind 24-0 in the first quarter as the once-infallible Tom Brady makes one bad throw after another, and not come away thinking that it's all coming apart for Bill Belichick's near-perfect football organization. And so it goes in the cruel business of chasing championships. The Patriots have become yesterday's news and we're looking around to see who has the stuff to take their place.
— As Pats fade, it's up to Colts to take over [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bryan Burwell]
"We didn't come to play," said Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who will be a free agent this off-season. "Never had a chance from the first play to the last play. They came in and they wanted it more than us. There's no film-watching now. Everything's over."
Maybe even more than he meant.
— Dominating Victory by the Ravens Shakes Up a Dynasty [Judy Battista, New York Times]
I'm not going to proclaim the dynasty is dead and start writing the obit. I'm not going to give into the sweeping overstatement, made for dramatic effect. As long as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are still around, the New England Patriots should remain both relevant and relatively successful.
But it's not knee-jerk in the least to admit that these are not the same old Patriots. As the new decade opens, it's obvious that the NFL's team of the just-past decade is no longer the outfit that has inspired awe, admiration and a good bit of fear for most of the past 10 years.
— Pats a shadow of selves [Don Banks, SI]
Life moves too quickly in sports for that clean a resolution. Teams get better and attitudes change, while hunger, like talent and enthusiasm, waxes and wanes. These aren't chess pieces, after all. The fears all culminated in one place: The Patriots' run is over, having survived during the 2009 season on the fumes of memory and respect for past accomplishments. But when it came time to fight hard against a tough, fearless opponent, nostalgia could not save them.
— The New England Patriots' mystique was shattered [Howard Bryant, ESPN]
Put it all together, and it's hard not to reach the conclusion Sunday that the era of greatness, represented by those three blue banners, is likely over. Only four players on the 2009 roster own rings from all three Super Bowl victories (Brady, Kevin Faulk, Matt Light and Stephen Neal) and, come August, Brady and Light might be the last men standing.
But even if one championship era is ending, the seeds for future success remain in place. The Patriots have four picks in the first two rounds of the 2010 draft and have at least two more first-rounders in 2011.
— Patriots run ending [Jeff Goldberg, Fox Sports]