Any athlete will state firmly that a loss is a loss, regardless of the quality of performance.
Still, the way the New York Jets fell to the New England Patriots 27-13 on Sunday didn't have a terrible look or feel. Certainly not how their 41-10 debacle against weak sister Buffalo felt in the Jets' most recent game before their bye.
For one, the Jets' fifth straight defeat was to the perennial AFC power. For another, they were tied 13-13 late in the third quarter and were making things difficult for Tom Brady and Co.
That's clearly so much better than basically not showing up against the offensively challenged Bills, then getting torn up for 41 points.
So what's the message to their frustrated fans in a spiraling season that could be the last of four for coach Todd Bowles?
"Stick with us, man," said second-year safety Jamal Adams, one of the few Jets having a good season. "Obviously, they're hurting and we get a lot of negative comments and we understand it. I get it. I get the frustration, but at the end of the day, we're hurting twice as much as you. So, just stick in there with us, man. We're going to figure it out.
"Do I know when? Do I know the timetable? No. But all I can do is just continue to do my part as a leader on this football team and as a player on this team, and just do my job and continue to help those around me to get better."
Getting better after successive 5-11 seasons will require quite a turnaround as the calendar hits December. The Jets (3-8) show signs of decency on both sides of the ball, and placekicker Jason Myers is having a strong year; he set an NFL record Sunday when he became the first kicker to hit five field goals from 55-plus yards in one season.
They hope to have quarterback Sam Darnold, the third overall pick in April's draft, back on the field from a foot injury sometime next month.
And they didn't come close to lying down against New England the way they did vs. Buffalo.
"Every man competed," said Darnold's fill-in, 16-year veteran Josh McCown. "Obviously, we didn't play as clean as we would like. Up until the last tick on the clock, we competed hard. I think that was much better than last week.
"It's obviously not ideal. I think individually, it's a test. A test of who you are and what you're about and your ability to get back up, come back to work, work hard, and be a professional. Those things are tested in these times."
The Jets have lost all four division games in sinking into the cellar in the AFC East. With the exception of Buffalo, their remaining opponents have playoff aspirations: Tennessee, Houston, Green Bay and New England.
So improving on the record of the past two seasons - and saving Bowles' job - is a hefty challenge.
"When you find yourself in this situation, you don't desire to be there," McCown said. "The good in it is that you're tested and you can see what you're really about. In this tough moment, it's about the guys sticking together, each man continuing to fight, work hard and being a pro. When you're in this situation, that's all you can do."