The Falcons lost their first game of the season. They did so in close, brutal fashion, but it's still only the first game of the season. You don't want to start predicting trends, because you're going to be wrong.
That said, there was one concern that stood out throughout preseason, and it was a concern that reared its ugly head time and time again against the Saints. That would be the much-maligned offensive line.
The numbers may not jump off the page to you, but the Falcons had one costly penalty on Sam Baker, three sacks allowed and (by my very unofficial count) at least four hurries. Aside from Steven Jackson's big 50 yard run, he had 10 carries for 27 yards. You can hang a lot of that on lousy line play.
So what can the Falcons do? As you might imagine, the options are pretty limited.
Bench Lamar Holmes
This would be a huge overreaction. Holmes was fine in the first half before falling apart later on. There's no doubt that he was lackluster on balance, but he's young and has enough talent to turn into something.
The Falcons' alternatives at tackle are Jeremy Trueblood, a 30-year-old who couldn't make the Redskins and has well-publicized pass protection problems, or UDFA Ryan Schraeder, who would have to have hit the learning curve running to make a difference. It's kind of like fishing around in the Wal-Mart discount DVD bin: Every choice is depressing.
Also, if you bench Holmes after one game, you shatter his confidence. If you're gonna do it, you better be damn sure you're not going back to him.
This didn't work in the first game, as Tony Gonzalez's failed chip can attest. Basically, the Falcons would be keeping backs and tight ends in to slow down pass rushers and give Ryan time to find an open man.
This might actually work better when a healthy Roddy White is in the game, because the Falcons can keep Jackson and Gonzalez in to chip and still send White, Julio Jones and Harry Douglas out to wreak havoc. It's far from an ideal solution, especially because Gonzalez does not block particularly well.
Go Get A Free Agent
The question is, what's out there? The answer: Not much.
At tackle, there's virtually nothing, unless you like Demetress Bell. There's a little more at guard, but I think you can argue that guard isn't the biggest priority on this team right now. The Falcons simply aren't likely to find an immediate upgrade on the wire.
I'm not opposed to trying, mind you, but I'm skeptical.
Ride It Out
Time heals all wounds, right? The likeliest option by far is this one, where the Falcons simply suck it up and let this line gel.
It's not totally insane to do so. Sam Baker is at least a decent left tackle, and Justin Blalock has been solid for a long time. Peter Konz is growing into center rapidly, and Garrett Reynolds has had some success. Holmes is the only real unknown here, and even if the known quantities don't all engender confidence, they played well enough to get the Falcons wins in 2012. The Falcons, bless or curse them, aren't ones to break with what's worked.
At best, you might see the Falcons give a backup a shot if the starters really struggle. The best candidates would be Joe Hawley for right guard and Jeremy Trueblood for right tackle.
The short answer, then: There is no easy fix. We have to hope for improvement, and if it's not forthcoming, it's going to be a long season.