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The Falcons played Decibacle well, in light of the Patriots' punishment

There are no second chances in today's NFL.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

It turns out that Arthur Blank played the Falcons' noise scandal masterfully. It was not fun to see a single employee scapegoated or to see the Falcons lose a fifth round pick, but copping to the Decibacle fiasco clearly led the NFL to wag its fingers instead of landing hard on Atlanta.

The Patriots had no such luck. They were docked 1st and 4th round picks, hit with a hefty fine and saw Tom Brady suspended for four games. Some of that punishment may be peeled back on appeal, but the NFL felt lied to and saw New England as repeat offenders due to the Spygate scandal last decade and punished them accordingly, despite finding that the overall organization had no knowledge of what Brady was up to. That's some serious, borderline outlandish punishment for the crime in question. It's also the status quo for Roger Goodell and the NFL today.

Every NFL will and should take note of this punishment because of what it says about all future punishments. You can't afford to get caught a second time, lest the hammer land heavy, and you certainly can't be cagey or deny because the NFL will scrape together enough evidence to satisfy its own meager standards. It's easy to laugh because it's the Patriots, who are wildly successful and not difficult to hate, but this should breed wariness. Deflating some footballs is not an offense on the same level as some of the domestic violence incidents the league dealt with last year, but they don't appear able to parse that effectively, so you really have to tiptoe carefully if you're even thinking about skirting the rules.

Brady's suspension really has virtually no impact on the Atlanta Falcons' season, but it serves as a valuable cautionary tale for this team. You have to appreciate Blank's candor in hindsight, even if we all cringed about it at the time.

What are your thoughts on the Patriots' punishment?