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Harsh reality is Patriots are rebuilding

Dynasty no more, team going through growing pains as it transitions into new era

Updated: December 11, 2009, 4:56 PM ET
By Howard Bryant | ESPN.com

When Bill Belichick refuses to engage at a level of detail beyond the final score of a given contest -- why his team succeeded, why it failed, why it was inconsistent, why a certain play worked or did not -- he often employs five words that serve as the ultimate conversation-stopper: "It is what it is."

With 75 percent of the 2009 NFL regular season complete, Belichick is now cornered by his own rhetoric. The New England Patriots are what they are. Once forecast for greatness ...

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