I'll be honest: I'm not nearly as upset about the loss as some in the Falcons nation are. Don't get me wrong: there was so much that was ugly in this game, my ten fingers can't count them all. But as with many things in life, it's important to keep things in perspective - even when it is incredibly hard to.
Let's start with the obvious: the offensive line. The natural assumption is to harp on Lamar Holmes, and he certainly had some very bad moments. But the reality is that the entire line - all 5 players - struggled. That is likely because of the lack of cohesiveness on the line. And here's a news flash: it's not going to get dramatically better overnight. It takes time for these guys to gel and we are likely going to see some repeats of what we saw today, though hopefully not as bad.
But even with the line playing as poorly as they did, Ryan still managed to put over 300 yards up and minus some key drops (and a fumble), the offense was still able to move the ball. Had Jackson or Tony pulled in one of those last catches, the mistakes in this game might be more palatable.
As normally happens against the Saints, there were a few key plays that ended up being costly. The Julio fumble lead to 7 points, while the dropped INT by Willy Mo let that drive survive for another 7 points. Take those away, and the complexion of this game is dramatically different. Not to mention the heart-crushing drop by Jackson at the end of the game.
But lest we all line up on cliffs to jump from depression, there are some positives to take away from this game.
First, Steven Jackson is the real deal. We'll forgive the drop because this guy is still an amazing weapon. He's clearly a much better fit and he and Ryan already seem to be on the same page. He turns check-down passes into big gains and as a pass catcher, he's yet another weapon in the passing game. Rumors of his demise were completely unfounded.
Secondly - if this game is any indication, the Falcons defense could be dramatically improved this year. Babineaux is one of the best DTs in the game and repeatedly showed why. Corey Peters was also generating nice pressure and registered a sack today. But more importantly, our young corners ALL showed up today. Trufant had a nice game and some nice tackles. Robert McClain got the start and continued his progress from last year, defending an early pass. And Robert Alford showed up big with an INT and a pass deflection. All of this against one of the best QBs in the league. This was an incredibly positive showing by our secondary, and something to build upon.
Additionally, the defense did a much better job with tackling (mostly) and completely shut down the Saints running game, allowing only 78 yards on 29 carries for a 2.7 average. They also forced the Saints to repeatedly settle for field goals and under normal circumstances, holding Drew Brees and team (in New Orleans, no less) to just 23 points is something to be proud of.
Ultimately, how you view this game will depend on what you think about our coaching staff. If you believe the last 5 years affords them some faith to get our issues corrected, then you'll likely see some diamonds in the ugly rough we suffered through. However, you may believe these to be persistent issues that have never been fixed, and apparently never will be.
Personally, I believe Smitty, Nolan and Koetter will make some needed corrections this week, and we'll see a much different team next week when we face the Rams. While suffering an opening day loss - particularly to the Saints - is never easy, it should prove as the fuel to get under the skin of some guys who need to dramatically improve their performances next week.