By their special standard, the Patriots have been less than perfect this season.
They finished 11-5 and flirted with not earning a first-round bye until the final few weeks of the season. They weren't anything close to a consensus pick to beat the Chargers in the Divisional Round.
And then the Patriots blew their doors off.
New England dominated Los Angeles from start to finish, racking up 498 yards of total offense, including 155 on the ground. The Patriots opened the game with a methodical, 14-play touchdown drive, then quickened their pace to score again — and again, and again, and again.
So much for the end of the Patriots' dynasty.
New England will move on to face the Kansas City Chiefs, with whom they tangled in a classic Sunday-night shootout in Week 6. It seems like ages ago, but with Sunday's performance considered, could be an indicator of what's to come.
"It'll be a good game, they're a good team," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady told CBS Sports' Tracy Wolfson after the win Sunday. "We played them earlier this year and I know everyone thinks we suck and you know, can't win any games. So we'll see. It'll be fun."
If anyone thought they weren't good enough to contend for a Super Bowl, they'll likely have a new opinion now. Perhaps the most intimidating: It sounds as if the Patriots, of all franchises, are playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder.
"We've been hearing things like that forever now, for a few years," Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski said after the game. "We just laugh at it, whatever, whatever they say and we just keep moving forward."
Sunday can't come soon enough.