The Atlanta Falcons opened up the 2013 NFL season against their NFC South arch rival New Orleans Saints on Sept. 8, and as expected, the score was close. But in the end, Matt Ryan and the Falcons were sent home packing. The ending of this game was a close resemblance to the 2012 NFC Championship Game, where the Falcons were just yards away from a victory on a last-minute drive, but could not get the job done in the redzone, which has now given fans an early reason to panic. But despite the early heartbreaking loss, the Falcons actually shouldn’t be worried at all.
The expectations for an undefeated season are now out of the question, but facing an intimidating rival like the Saints in a hostile environment Week 1 has already better prepared the Falcons for future opponents. Going into this game, the Saints had a lot riding on the return of head coach Sean Payton, who’s recent suspension in connection with the controversial bounty scandal a year ago finally expired. That type of reunion coupled with an electric Saints’ crowd inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, created an atmosphere very similar to the emotional post-Hurricane Katrina game in 2006. But unlike the game in 2006, the Falcons kept it close, and even though the game ended in disappointment, Ryan’s ability to orchestrate potential late game-winning drives are still in good form, and the Falcons’ offense has already shown how dangerous they will be with Steven Jackson in the backfield for the remainder of the season. Defensively, despite being without veteran defensive back Asante Samuel, rookie corners Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant have already shown they can handle the big stage on their own.
Many also seem to forget there are still 15 games left in the regular season. A Week 1 loss doesn’t dwindle Atlanta’s chances for making the playoffs, because in 2012, four of the 12 teams that made the playoffs lost their season openers. It just gives Atlanta all the motivation in the world to move on and prepare for their first home game of the season in the Georgia Dome against the St. Louis Rams.