NEW ORLEANS -- Seeing as the NFL is a copycat league, teams naturally want to emulate the blueprint of the franchise that wins it all.
So mark this down: Losing at the end of the regular season can be a good thing.
That's what the champion Baltimore Ravens did, dropping four of their last five games this season before igniting in the playoffs and knocking off Indianapolis, Denver, New England and finally San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII.
And the Ravens were traveling a well-worn path. The 2011 New York Giants won it all after losing four games in a row in November and December. The 2010 Green Bay Packers lost three of four down the stretch. The 2009 New Orleans Saints lost their last three in the regular season. The 2007 Giants were 4-4 over a November-December stretch. The 2006 Indianapolis Colts lost four of their last seven. And the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers had a three-game losing streak during November and December.
Being dragged to the edge of a cliff and forced to stare into the abyss helps sharpen a team's focus, reminding the players just how bad losing feels.
"I think the adversity does help, it does callus you up," Coach John Harbaugh said Monday, the morning after his Ravens beat the 49ers, 34-31, to claim the Lombardi Trophy. "But through all that, we were improving. Even though we were losing, I felt like we were improving."