First things first.
What the Patriots were able to do in spite of the injuries they suffered in 2013, was nothing short of amazing.
When you lose the caliber and importance of players that the Patriots were forced to cart off the field this season, it makes it even more impressive that they were playing in the AFC Championship and not watching it on TV from their winter retreats.
Bill Belichick and Tom Brady delivered perhaps their finest performance, keeping the Patriots in contention despite constantly scrapping their plan and starting over when injuries claimed another key player.
Yes, Bill and Tom were unquestionably instrumental to saving the Patriots' season. But they can't do it alone.
"What I don't think [Belichick] has around him is a team that has its own identity that's forged by themselves," says Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran.
"I think that Bill Belichick's will, Bill Belichick's resilience, Bill Belichick's adaptability, is oftentimes, along with Tom Brady, really the backbone of the team."
As the saying goes, "In Bill We Trust."
But once again, it wasn't enough to get the Patriots over the hump.
"I would really like to see the New England Patriots, especially on defense, start to forge an identity that I can look at and say 'that's what they're all about, that's what they do.'"
The Patriots, and Belichick, have become famous for their ability to adapt and change their model as circumstances, opponents, and personnel dictate.
Mike Giardi wonders if that constant changing is sometimes to their detriment.
Curran says that may be the case on occasion, but this season was different.
"When you have Austin Collie, and Julian Edelman, and Danny Amendola, basically it looks like the Hickory team from Hoosiers taking the floor, you better be inventive."
The Patriots will take some time and evaluate their season, and then set out to try and find the player or players who can give them the identity that they currently lack.