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Burns: Falcons showed mercy on lifeless Cardinals

My son spent the weekend playing in a baseball tournament where, from time to time, the mercy-rule is used to save time and spare embarrassment. Up by 10 runs after four innings, or eight runs after five, and the game is over.

On Saturday his team was run-ruled, on Sunday it was the Arizona Cardinals turn. On first and goal from the five, with two and a half minutes left in the game the Atlanta Falcons took a knee four straight times even though it meant the Cardinals would get the ball back. It’s the NFL’s version of the mercy-rule.

Never seen that one before. But losing 41-7 on the road? Yeah, that’s a familiar sight.

In 2002 they lost to Kansas City 49-0. The next season they coughed up 50 in a loss to the Niners. In 2005, under Dennis Green, they opened the season with a 42-19 loss to the Giants. And of course, who could forget the triplets of 2008: Losing to the Jets 56-35, the Eagles 48-28 and to the Patriots 47-7.

You remember that year don’t you? It’s the year they went to the Super Bowl.

And that, my friends, is all I got. Are you in search of hope after that gashing against the Falcons? There’s your hope; your proof that they can get obliterated like they did on Sunday and yet still manage to be relevant when it matters. I hope it makes you feel better.

I don’t.

Defensively they had the authority of a mall cop; powerless to stop anyone. That’s the area where I was expecting to see the greatest improvement from last year and I was hoping to see it in this game. Instead, it’s a unit that has given up 40-plus points in three of their last four games that mattered.

Offensively, outside of one play, I have no recollection of anything positive happening. Even the unusually long-awaited debut of the undrafted rookie backup quarterback Max Hall didn’t have the desired effect. He threw a pick on his second play.

It’s here you’ll find the obligatory it-wasn’t-all-Derek-Anderson’s-fault line. And it’s true, it wasn’t. But what is also true is that he didn’t make one play that made a difference in this game. He simply must play better and if he’s not capable of that, then it truly will be a long season.