Even before the Falcons awoke Monday, still a perfect 0-0, it had been a good opening weekend for them.
For the news from around the NFC South Sunday was all encouraging. As many thought in the preseason, their neighborhood does not look so tough at the real season’s first glance. Week One confirmed the notion that any small improvement Dan Quinn impresses upon the Falcons can be felt big time in the division standings.
On this dawn of a new season, the Falcons first can be thankful that Tampa Bay took Jameis Winston rather than Marcus Mariota No. 1. Head-to-head, their meeting was a mismatch. Tennessee’s Mariota became the first rookie quarterback since Fran Tarkenton to throw four touchdown passes in his first game. Meanwhile, Winston’s first pro pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. The Bucs lost 42-14 and dispelled any notion that Winston would be an instant remedy. That member of the NFC South will be riding a jagged learning curve.
The Saints did as expected in Arizona, losing 31-19. They certainly missed Jimmy Graham, struggling to finish off possessions inside the red zone. Their loss was not a disgrace by any measure, but it was a signal that the Saints are still a few notches south of special.
And Carolina, the class of the conference, got past Jacksonville, 20-9, neither a score nor an opponent that suggests a juggernaut rolls in Charlotte. The Panthers’ best defender, Luke Kuechly, suffered a concussion and a goodly number of dropped passes and some wasted big-play opportunities reminded them of how much they will miss the injured Kelvin Benjamin.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, they have to play the entire NFC East and go six games deep before getting to measure themselves against a team in their own division. The soft part of the schedule is more than a month away, if any part of this re-tooling team’s docket can be called that without a snicker.