How a team loses can shake its confidence more than the losses themselves.
The St. Louis Rams, outscored 96-36 during their 0-3 start, come to mind this season.
One question now is whether the rocky beginning forces reevaluation of the Rams' fundamental makeup.
"I thought they would run away with the division," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said this week. "I knew the schedule was hard early and they were putting in a complex new offense, but I did not expect this. They are the worst team in the league all of a sudden."
The climb remains an uphill one. The Rams' next four opponents: Washington (home), Green Bay (road), Dallas (road) and New Orleans (home).
Life for the Rams could get worse before it gets better, in other words.
A few thoughts from Williamson on where the Rams stand heading into Week 4:
On quarterback Sam Bradford: "I think Bradford has played well and I feel for him. They have had so many drops. No one can get open for him. He hits guys in the hands on third-and-8. He is getting no help. The line is not there, the safety-blanket running back is not there. Bradford is not the problem at all. The offense should get better when Danny Amendola and Steven Jackson are back. Bradford could really use an Amendola type."
On the offensive line: "Jason Smith has been really poor for them. Both tackles have been bad. Rodger Saffold has not been as good as he was last year. Smith is just a disappointment. If you are going to take a right tackle second overall, you need him to be a Pro Bowler. The line situation overall is weird. They have a lot invested there. If it doesn't work, what do you do? You don’t want to use another first-round pick on a tackle. You don't want to spend on another guard. Their center, Jason Brown, has not performed up to his contract, either. He is not one of the five or even 10 best centers in the league. Maybe you draft a nasty nail-eating guy in the third round, cut Brown and use the money for a wideout or corner."
On the defense: "The injuries at cornerback have been huge. They have no coverage ability. The defense will be middle-of-the-pack this year. They are better up front with better pass rushers. They could use a defensive tackle for the long haul. They could use another star in the defensive backfield, but all in all, I think the defense is pretty solid."
On the Rams' chances overall: "I’m not ready to cash them in. The second-half schedule is better. They’ll get healthier. There are talented players there. I think Steve Spagnuolo is a good coach, and Josh McDaniels can coach up an offense. Nothing is going well there right now. I still have all the faith in the world in Bradford. It’s not time to reassess. They are probably the best franchise in the division with the brightest future. They have the quarterback, and I very much believe Spagnuolo will keep the defense competitive. They have huge coverage issues, but a lot of that is due to injury."
I'm not sure that will make Rams fans feel any better about the immediate future. The questions on the offensive line are probably more troubling than at any other position. There should come a time, however, when Bradford does more for the line than he needs the line to do for him. But the team needs to get more for its money up front.