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Burns: It can’t get worse for the Cardinals

Paul Calvisi is wrong.

My co-host on Sports Interactive likes to say “it can always get worse.”

Against their division rival, in a game that both teams have pointed to since August, on the second biggest stage in the sport, the Arizona Cardinals laid down and had their tummies scratched. I defy anyone to tell me how it can get worse than what I just saw.

How does it get worse than a 27-6 loss at home to a Frank-Gore-less San Francisco 49er team?

3-13? How is that worse? That’s a high draft pick, a potential franchise QB waiting to happen. In my book that’s an upgrade.

How does it get worse than a quarterback yukkin’ it up on the sideline in the 4th quarter? Hey Derek, you don’t need a media hack like me to remind you that perception is reality. I’m sure it was a harmless joke. A moment of levity needed after a bad night at the office. But some of the fans and media don’t want levity. They want to know you’re as angry about it as they are. That it matters to you. When you laugh during the game, then get all huffy during your postgame press conference it gives off a heavy vibe that you don’t. Maybe that’s not fair but it’s the truth.

Clearly, there was nothing to laugh about. The Cardinals should be embarrassed by their play on Monday night. I’m not talking about the losing-on-the-road-to-the-Falcons embarrassed. It goes deeper than that.

Forget the dwindling playoff hopes before the game started, this contest was about pride. It was about showing your fans, a national audience, and more importantly yourselves that there is something here to be salvaged. That in a season of failed expectations you still have enough pride to go beat that team. Your so-called rival with the tenuous head coach, the cast-off quarterback, the barely used running back and their own set of demons that have haunted them all year.

And, oh yeah, a win puts you a game out of first in the division.

All of those reasons to play harder than you have all year and instead you looked as soft as a fleece blanket. And that’s the part that has to leave Ken Whisenhunt scarred. This team knew exactly what was in front of them Monday night. There was nothing to sell to the players; a game like this sells itself. It was a true test of their character.

Like most of the tests put before this team, they failed.

It can always get worse? No. It can’t.