You can legitimately claim they caught some breaks along the way - like the tuck rule, or Drew Bledsoe's ankle injury which forced the team to play Tom Brady and ride him all the way to their first of three Lombardi trophies.
You can also cite the spygate scandal, and wonder how much of their success came from Bill Belicheat's subtle skunkworks operation before it was busted.
(Note: They haven't won a Lombardi since Roger Goodell shut it down. Just sayin'...)
Disclaimers aside, the Patriots have still been lapping the league in terms of smart player acquisition, veritable hoarding of draft picks, development of their own talent, and tenaciously good week to week coaching by Belichick and his staff.
This is a team that lost Brady in Week 1 to a knee injury two years ago, and still went 11-5 and still missed the playoffs. They then traded Cassell for a 2nd round draft pick, re-inserted Brady the next year, and didn't miss a beat when it comes to winning.
This is a franchise that acquires toxic WR Randy Moss, molds him into a model citizen, gets crazy production from him, then trades him suddenly for a HIGHER draft pick than they used to get him.
All of that said, the point to be learned from Sunday's disastrous crash-and-burn from a dominant 14-2 season is this: dominance in the NFL, is just as fragile as every other team's struggling.
To get an edge, to keep an edge, and to actually WIN a championship, takes MANY seasons of excellence. It is like animals that lay thousands of eggs in hopes that just a few spawn.
You can't just hope to have a great season ONE year, and then "win it all." Too many bad things can happen. The margins are too thin.
Here, look at the Patriots wikipedia snapshot of their last decade. Some sick, sick numbers!
Yet notice too, how close it all came to being for naught!
Three Super Bowl victories, but by only 3 points each. Some close playoff calls along the way, the crushing collapse against the Colts on the road in 2006.
And now, this inexplicable pants fart of an effort against a Jet team that they crushed just a few weeks ago.
Is the Patriots "dynasty" over, people are wondering? I doubt it. In fact, I'll put them down for 10 wins next year as a "base". However their chances of winning another Super Bowl, are just fickle and uncertain as any of the 12 teams who make the playoffs every year.