For years now, New England Patriot fans joked that the season didn’t start until the AFC Championship game. It was a taunt built out of hubris but also truth — they appeared in 13 of them during the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era, including eight consecutive at one point.
Division titles were expected and hardly celebrated. The team culture famously called for a hat to be handed out. Playoff appearances, and at least one home victory, was a birthright.
So what do you do if suddenly you’re 2-4 and have lost three consecutive games and looked increasingly terrible in each one?