ATLANTA -- Arthur Blank has already written one letter of apology. It might be time to fire off another one.
"I'm very, very disappointed in our performance," said Blank, the Falcons' second-year owner. "You want to have a team the fans can be proud of. Obviously, this team is not playing well."
On Monday night, the Falcons (1-6) were blown out 36-0 by St. Louis -- a performance that prompted Blank to send a letter to the president of ABC.
"I told him I was sorry we didn't do a better job," Blank said. "When you're on a platform like Monday Night Football, you want to put a game on. You want a team that's competitive."
Competitive? That's not the Falcons. They fell behind to the Saints 35-14 at the half, giving up a staggering 369 yards in the first two quarters.
New Orleans (3-4) won its second in a row, though it's hard to tell if the Saints turned a corner with their dominating performance. Brooks was 23 of 30 passing. McAllister ran for 116 yards. Joe Horn caught eight passes for 133 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown.
"It's a lot better when you're up by a large margin," Brooks said. "Guys can have fun and you get more confident, almost bordering on cockiness."
Atlanta has lost six in a row since a season-opening victory at Dallas, a game that seems about a million years ago. And the Falcons aren't just losing - they're getting embarrassed. During the losing streak, they have surrendered a staggering 34.5 points a game.
With Vick still recovering from a broken leg, the Falcons gave third-string quarterback Kurt Kittner his first pro start. Warrick Dunn broke off a 69-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage, providing a fleeting bit of hope for Atlanta.
Then the defense had to take the field.
On New Orleans' third play, Brooks hooked up with Donte Stallworth on a simple slant over the middle. Cornerback Tyrone Williams gave up on the play, Stallworth broke a tackle and ran straight down the middle of the field for his own 69-yard touchdown.
"The game was really dictated to us," Brooks said. "We had to step up our game and we did. We made a lot of big plays."
Williams didn't play another down. Shortly afterward, Falcons Pro Bowl linebacker Keith Brooking trudged to the locker room with several small fractures in his back. He didn't return, either.
The score was 14-all at the end of the first quarter, but the Saints blew it open in the second against the Falcons' depleted, dispirited defense.
McAllister ran 4 yards for a touchdown. Boo Williams hauled in a 12-yard scoring pass. And McAllister finished things off by soaring across the goal line for a 10-yard TD with 30 seconds left in the half.
The Falcons trotted off the field to massive boos. Many of the fans headed for the exits -- and didn't come back. In the final, grim minutes, only a few thousand fans - most cheering for the Saints -- were left in the stands.
Falcons coach Dan Reeves has been stuck on 199 career victories since the win over Dallas. The way things are going, it's reasonable to ask how much longer Blank will stick with his venerable coach.
Publicly, at least, Blank insists that he's not planning any changes.
"Dan has been in a lot of bad places before in his career, and he's always come back," the owner said. "He's experienced. He knows what he has to do to win. I have confidence in this staff."
Atlanta is off next week, providing two long weeks to mull how things have gone so bad for a team that made the second round of the playoffs a season ago.
"We had all those expectations, all that buzz," offensive tackle Bob Whitfield said. "Now you see it waning. You see the empty seats. You hear the booing. You look at the scoreboard and you're getting beat. It's the lowest of the low."
Kittner looked like a third-stringer, completing just 9-of-29 for 115 yards. He did throw his first career touchdown, an 18-yarder to Brian Finneran.
The Saints backed off in the second half, but still managed one last touchdown drive. Former No. 1 pick Ki-Jana Carter ran it in from the 1 for his first score since Dec. 30, 2001.
- Brooking's injury is similar to the one that knocked out Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper for three weeks.
- Stallworth injured a quadriceps and didn't return, while DT Grady Jackson was able to keep playing despite possible ligament damage to a thumb.
- Horn was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when he mimicked shooting a gun after scoring his touchdown. "I'm sure the league will have something to say to him," coach Jim Haslett said. "If he wants to dance a little, that's fine. But you can't be pulling out six-shooters or guns on the field."
The Associated Press News Service
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