The clink of shovels and the scratchy swoosh of dirt were sounds of a midnight burial back on Sept. 29. The hopes of a return to the Super Bowl were already in the ground.

The Kansas City Chiefs beat New England 41-14 and ripped the hearts out of Patriots fans that night. Bill Belichick was the disgraced genius and Tom Brady was a shell of the quarterback who won three NFL championships.

You gnawed at the belief of a bleak winter and wanted to start the rebuilding the very next day. Trade Brady. Take anything or anyone of value.

Shouldn’t be hard to remember the morose chatter. It was only five weeks ago.

Sunday, Brady and the Patriots beat Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. The score was 43-21. Quickly, Brady’s name has been added to the pool of MVP candidates and the season is only at its midpoint.

Everyone, about face.

In the games we play and the lives we lead, two things usually happen when you hit bottom. You land with a thud and stay down or you bounce back. You accept and surrender or you fight to recover. That’s Motivational Theory 101 and in every coach’s handbook.

Do you want to be defined by the humilating loss or the effort to climb back up? Do you want to practice and play while in denial that your effort was awful, or do you take an honest look at what went wrong?

Like Manning saying he stunk at quarterback after the Patriots beat the Broncos. Manning wasn’t the sole reason Denver lost but the future Hall of Famer put it on his shoulders.

It doesn’t matter if it’s two professional football teams playing in front of thousands or two college basketball teams in Maine in a small gym with hundreds watching.

The University of Southern Maine men beat the University of Maine 78-73 on Saturday night. USM, a Division III school without athletic scholarships got the better of a Division I program that pays players in the form of athletic scholarships.

Yes, it was an exhibition and for Bob Walsh, the new Maine coach, his first time seeing his players in an actual game setting. The game was also an opportunity to expose the Maine program to a southern Maine audience, however small.

Maine hit bottom Saturday night. Kudos to USM for earning a victory at Maine’s expense. Unfortunately, much of the talk afterward has been about Maine’s failure and not USM’s success. No Division I program with athletic scholarships should lose to a Division III program.

Walsh, as coach and motivator, has what he needs from the loss. Unlike the Patriots, the Maine men’s basketball program has been without success a long time. If Walsh was the right hire, the climb upward has started.

At Husson University in Bangor, its Division III football program hit bottom after Coach Gabby Price left five years ago. He returned last season and now the Eagles have a chance to reach the NCAA playoffs.

The Red Sox went from the bottom to the top to the bottom again. The Celtics are going through their version of the same thing.

Yes, comparing the Patriots to Maine basketball or Husson football or the Red Sox and Celtics is apples and oranges. The basic premise is the same: someone has to lead and sometimes that may be as simple as holding up a mirror.

Bill Belichick didn’t forget how to coach and Tom Brady didn’t forget how to play quarterback. The evolution of the game can create coaching headaches and failures. Confidence can become arrogance. Aging does rob the best athletes of what they do best.

And we all know how to jump to conclusions. The Patriots were kaput five weeks ago.

No they weren’t.

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