The essence of the New England Patriots' reign as this century’s most successful N.F.L. team has been their peculiar capacity to feel smug and belittled at the same time.
It is a paradox the Patriots have put to good use at pivotal times on the way to five Super Bowl victories, winning some games because of unbridled confidence and others because they believed they were being unfairly disparaged.
Sunday’s 41-28 thrashing of the Los Angeles Chargers in an A.F.C. divisional round playoff game — the Patriots led by 28 points at halftime — was conspicuously in the latter category.