It's hard to imagine how the Patriots have gone from one extreme to the other in just three years, but the former biennial representatives of the AFC in the Super Bowl have now found themselves in unfamiliar territory at the end of Week 8.
The loss to the Dolphins was heartbreaking enough, especially with how it transpired. But after the Broncos beat the Chiefs for the first time in eight years on Sunday afternoon, the Patriots are now dead last in the conference, something not many probably expected to be their fate at this point in the season.
But how did they get here? And why?
Before the season began, it seemed like many of the right moves were made, at least to the coaching staff. Matt Patricia wasn't re-signed after his contract with the Lions ended, forcing the Patriots to pay up to retain him. Joe Judge was removed from his position as the quarterbacks coach and moved elsewhere, even if that move is still questionable.
Bill O'Brien was rehired to take over as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, a significant upgrade for Mac Jones for his third season. And former Patriot Adrian Klemm was hired to help improve the offensive line, which has been problematic for years.
The right moves to the coaching staff were made, but it doesn't appear to be paying off. There's a fair argument to be made that Bill Belichick didn't do enough improvement to the roster, especially offensively, and that is valid and remains true today. It's the biggest difference between the Patriots roster and the Dolphins, who are quick and talented in essentially every position on the team.
It will ultimately continue to be the main difference between them and their opponents for the rest of the season. And with the trade deadline just around the corner, there's not a whole lot the Patriots can do or should do that would alter the course of their presumed season.
Because of those decisions, or lack thereof, by Belichick, the team is now in one of the worst spots they have been in years, and the worst part about it is that there's no real way out of it.
They're not just a quarterback away from being contenders or even just a receiver. There's a lot more behind their struggles this year than on one position alone. Plus, there's the question of coaching, too. Something is clearly off because they're not playing like a typical Belichick-run team.
That's something they will have to figure out as the weeks go on, if not during the offseason. Right now, they should try to stack some wins over what appears to be some easier opponents and try to boost morale a bit for the next eight games. Otherwise, it will be an even longer season.