Perspective is needed after shocking end to Patriots' still-impressive season

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Repeat after me: The Patriots had a successful season.

The Patriots had a successful season.

THE PATRIOTS HAD A SUCCESSFUL SEASON!

Feel better? No, me neither.

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That very rational, reasonable belief is admittedly a bit harder to digest in light of New England’s shocking, embarrassing 47-17 loss at the hands of Josh Allen and the bullying Bills Saturday night in Buffalo.

That Allen once again dominated the Patriots defense by going seven-straight possessions on Super Wild Card Weekend with touchdowns and a second-straight game against Bill Belichick’s boys without having to punt is certainly alarming.

“It sucks to end the season that way,” Devin McCourty said after seeing Allen throw more touchdown passes (5) than he had incompletions (4).

Last time the Patriots had visited Highmark Stadium in early December, New England ran the ball 46 times compared to just three passes in a wild wind that had Bills defenders getting rather defensive when asked if they were embarrassed by their losing performance.

This time around, McCourty had no such qualms accurately and honestly admitting that the loss was indeed “embarrassing.” Anyone with eyes could see that.

As much as it was, though, it can’t wipe away all that was accomplished in 2021, all the positive steps the Patriots took from last March straight through this dismal defeat in Buffalo.

Winning 10 games in the National Football League is nothing to be ashamed of.

Earning a spot in the postseason should be celebrated, even if a team is proven far from elite and “couldn’t keep up” as Bill Belichick described his team’s performance against a true Super Bowl contender in the Bills.

Despite what he called a “crash landing” in Buffalo, Patriots longtime leader Matthew Slater did his best to put some perspective on things.

“You think about how the previous season went and all the work we put in to get back to this point,” Slater said. “The one thing I’ll say is this team should be proud of the strides that it made, the growth that we showed over the course of the season and for me I’m thankful to be part of this group.”

That certainly doesn’t wipe away the fact that New England lost four of the final five games it played in December in January.

Doesn’t erase the massive gap that Allen has created between his two-time defending AFC East champion squad and a Patriots defense that finished No. 2 in the NFL in points allowed in 2021, even if you couldn’t tell by the way it played the last eight quarters against Buffalo.

Of course part of the success for New England was that it found its own young quarterback to believe in. Mac Jones is here to stay. He was the successful present in terms of leading the Patriots to the playoffs as a 17-game rookie starter. And even after throwing a pair of interceptions in the losing effort, his future should intrigue those both inside and outside the walls of Gillette Stadium.

“I think the future is bright for this organization with that young man, not just his play on the field but I think the man that he is, the character that possesses,” Slater said of Jones. “He’s the type of man that you hope to build around. I’m excited where this organization is going to be in the future with him. To Patriot Nation, they should be excited about having No. 10 as their quarterback.”

And whether New England fans spoiled by two decades of unprecedented success with Belichick and Tom Brady want to accept it or not, getting to the playoffs is an accomplishment even if you are unceremoniously dispatched as a one-and-done postseason pretender.

“I think you have to keep proper perspective on the National Football League,” Slater declared. “For those of you that have been covering this team for a long time, this is not reality. What we’ve experienced here, to have the runs that we’ve had, the expectations for this football team, I mean nobody else in the league has done that. So, that’s not reality. That’s not the reality of the NFL. So I think perspective is important. You look at what happened last year and the regression we had, to get back to this point certainly we should be proud of that.

“But the other edge of that sword tells us that the expectations and the demand are high here. And the standard is never going to change. So certainly we are not pleased with the way that we ended this season and we’re also not pleased with tonight’s outcome. So you have to keep a good balance there. You have to realize who this football team is and where they are headed. We’ll see what the future holds.”

Where they are head is into an offseason. One in which a defense that looked old and slow at times will be considered for an overall. An offseason in which Jones will be expected to grow, both as a player and a leader.

But, compared to where New England was a year ago at this time searching for a quarterback, searching to stabilize a talent-barren roster, the Patriots are headed in the right direction.

THE PATRIOTS HAD A SUCCESSFUL SEASON!

Even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.

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