When soaring hopes tumble short of the jeweler, the Tom Brady-led offense has contributed more gloomily to the Patriots' ultimate fates in recent years than has New England's defense.
This was even true Sunday -- and even though New England's frantic defenders were tormented by Peyton Manning playing at his sunny-and-in-the-60s best during the Denver Broncos' 26-16 victory in the AFC title game.
But we expect so much more from Brady and the offense -- no matter what law enforcement, injuries and contract penny-pinching might leave No. 12 for wide receivers -- than we do from a defense that for several seasons has been the frantic passenger clinging to the train in hope of creating enough turnovers to pay its fare.
The early promise of a championship-caliber defense this season ended on the operating table: Defensive captains Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo went on IR well before Halloween.
To keep the adversity theme going for these inspiring 2013 Patriots (and to mix in partisan ill will toward once-beloved Wes Welker), the team's other most vital defender, cornerback Aqib Talib, was on Sunday a first-half injury casualty for the second straight AFC title game.
Still, if someone had said beforehand that Manning and the Broncos would score 26 points Sunday, my educated guess would be that the Patriots would right now be on their way to Super Bowl XLVIII. The Broncos' secondary appeared to be on life-support coming into this game.
But again, the Patriots' offense bowed out without a bang. New England's point totals in its last six season-ending playoff losses have been 16, 13, 17, 21, 14, and 14.
True, the Patriots' offense had the ball 12 fewer minutes than Denver's offense had it, and much of that falls on a defense that bent for 507 yards without generating a turnover.
But chances are the offense would have had the ball more had it done more with it in the first half, when New England's window for controlling events at Mile High was slammed.
The Patriots on their first two possessions (and on three of their first six) went three-and-out. Rarely in NFL playoff annals has so little ever come out of so much being written about a player's likely impact heading into a game. The previously stampeding LeGarrette Blount was stuffed on a few early carries, and then New England's offensive urgency heightened when Talib went out of the game with a knee injury in the second quarter.
The Patriots no longer could afford to be patient with a running game that had been their toughest-team-on-the-block identity in recent weeks. The fact that Denver's run defense was considerably stouter than Indianapolis' somehow escaped statistical notice amid the mania over Blount's 166 yards and four touchdowns against the Colts in the Divisional round.
The Patriots noticed. They came out throwing Sunday. (Blount finished with 6 yards on 5 carries.)
The great missed early opportunity was a perfectly set-up play-action on which Brady overthrew a wide-open Julian Edelman going deep late in the first quarter when New England trailed only 3-0.
"I just overthrew him," said Brady, who was 24-for-38 for 277 yards and one TD, much of that while the Broncos' defense was in clock-draining mode.
Back in March, one sensed that allowing Welker to leave in free agency would factor into New England's ultimate glee or disappointment. Welker's impact on this victory turned out to be much greater than his four catches for 38 yards or his motivational speech Saturday night to his Denver teammates.
Welker, who during his six seasons in New England caught more passes from Brady than anyone ever has, was the Bronco who sidelined Talib with a hit that was somehow not deemed to be offensive pass interference. (Manning was throwing to a nearby Demaryius Thomas, who dropped the pass.) Patriots coach Bill Belichick called it a "key play of the game," which seemed a subtle way of saying, "That dirty little Welker. We should have re-signed him."
As for Brady and Manning, the funny thing about legacies is that it is best to allow careers to completely play out before writing them. Sunday was one of Manning's finest hours (32-for-43, 400 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT).
One thinks back to when people would say Belichick was in Manning's head when the QB was losing two playoff games in Foxboro during the Patriots' dynasty years. Maybe the Patriots were just better than Manning's teams in those years.
Manning's team was certainly better than the Brady's team on Sunday.
Follow David Pevear on Twitter and Tout @merganser10.