I am a Patriots fan to the core. The last 20 years have been incredible, unless of course you live somewhere other than New England and have to root for one of those other teams. The Belichick-Brady era will go down in sports history as among the greatest of all time, regardless of how this suddenly shaky season turns out and whether Tom Brady suits up again next season.

The day we Patriots fans hoped would never come is at the doorstep. It appears as though our legendary run is about over. It was just a matter of time. How fortunate not only to have been around to see it all but to have my kids come of age during this time.

The road to the top has not always been easy or clean for the Patriots. The Belichick-Brady years have also given us a few controversies that have tested our loyalty and devotion to the head hoodie and crew. But when you are on top, it's easy to excuse evidence of poor behavior and dismiss outside criticism as nothing more than jealousy and envy.

Allegations of cheating have dogged the team for years, yet fans have remained loyal through "Spygate" and "Deflate-gate." The base stood solid as beloved team owner Robert Kraft was caught up in a cathouse sting in Florida. But now the luster has begun to fade a bit and the team is struggling just as a new controversy is swirling.

The Patriots have reportedly been caught videotaping the Cincinnatti Bengals sideline during the team's game against the Cleveland Browns. The allegation is that New England was recording the coach's signals in preparation for Sunday's crucial game. The Bengals suck gas but the Patriots are badly in need of a win this weekend, making the implausible plausible. The NFL is investigating.

If true and the New England Patriots were caught cheating, it would be a blow not only to the team and its legacy but to the fans as well. Enough is enough already.

When you are on top, you can get away with a lot. When you are not, it becomes more difficult. I sincerely hope the Patriots were not spying on their opponent but one thing is for certain, it's getting tougher and tougher to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Don't let the sun set on this dynasty this way.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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