Jim Henderson: Saints don't kickoff season as planned

Saints fans don't kickoff the season the way they planned.

Look at it this way: Weren't you getting sick of beating the Falcons so much anyway? Maybe not. And certainly not after the way the Saints lost and the way they were pushed around Sunday.

That was a major slap upside the head by the open palm of reality.

To lose on the road to your most hated rival on the last play of the game is a bitter pill to swallow, just like the one the fans of this week's opponent -- the Cleveland Browns -- are choking down on the shores of Lake Erie.

They lost to an opponent's in-step on the game's last play in Pittsburgh as well.

But there is no time to waste feeling sorry for the Browns, nor for ourselves. Yes, the Browns have lost 10 straight season openers now. But the Saints have lost one one-too many to the Falcons anytime, any place.

If this rivalry needed re-heating after the Saints' recent dominance, that was 61 minutes and 43 seconds in the steamy Georgia Dome microwave Sunday.

It's back on now, if it ever was truly off.

If opening game victories and opening game losses were always fool-proof harbingers of the season to follow, you could get out the champagne or the shovels right now. Nothing guarantees that the Falcons offense will be this good or the Saints' defense this bad in any of the next 15 games to follow.  But the beauty of this sport is that nothing guarantees that they won't either.

It's logic that suggests otherwise. Logic also suggested the Saints would win Sunday as 3-point favorites with 91 percent of the Las Vegas betting action reportedly coming in on the Saints.

Sunday's game might have been the best of opening weekend. It was the latest classic in the Saints' oldest rivalry that's produced a slew of them. But that will probably provide the Who Dats little solace.

Maybe December 21 will. That's when Atlanta comes here. We'll see what shape the Falcons and the Saints are in after 14 games of this season. But after Sunday, now it's the Saints who must sheepishly challenge, "oh yeah?"...to which the Falcons rejoin with a confident smile, "yeah."

Only that second meeting and the season that precedes it can put the two teams and the fans of each back in their recent place.