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“Last season, while suspended in connection with the NFL's bounty probe, Payton watched helplessly from afar as the Saints fielded one of the worst defenses ever, yielding a single-season record 7,042 yards,” according to the game summary by ESPN.com. “One of his first moves upon reinstatement was to hire Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator.”

It seemed to have worked.

The Saints went out on defense first and set the tone against division rival Atlanta, which resulted in a 23-17 win over the Falcons in the Superdome.

The win not only helped Payton ease his way back to his position of leader, the Saints proved they were complete with their captain roaming the sidelines.

When two teams with high octane offenses like these two play (twice a year in the NFC South), you hate seeing a team fall. But, someone has to win and someone has to lose.

And here is what we learned from this first game of the year.

Vintage Brees

He just went out and did what he does best.

Drew Brees threw for 357 yards and two scores. He was in control of the offense once he stepped out on the carpet.

Brees was good last season, but seemed a bit unattached because of the loss of Payton for the year. He even spoke out openly of how important Payton’s presence was important to the complete drive of the team.

The return of Brees from 2011 is a great thing for the Falcons and a scary thing for the rest of the NFL.

Matt Ryan wasn’t bad either

If Ryan is going to take the next step in his ascension as an elite passer, he needs to not make mental errors or throw key interceptions. Ryan threw for 304 yards and two scores but was picked off once. I think this is the kind of game in that the scoring went back and forth and there was more defense than expected. Ryan will get another shot at New Orleans later in the year in Atlanta to redeem himself.

A defensive stand

The Saints applied pressure on Ryan all game. The new scheme worked. He was sacked three times by Junior Galette, Akiem Hicks and Parys Haralson -- and threw balls away several times, including on an early third down that forced Atlanta to settle for a field goal.

The notes on ESPN show that “the group also produced a momentum-changing turnover when Malcolm Jenkins stripped Jones and Harper recovered, setting up Colston's TD, which tied the game at 10 in the second quarter.”

Somewhat of a running game

I love the analogy the sportscasters on ESPN gave this morning concerning Atlanta and a running game to get to the Super Bowl. Only after the Denver Broncos drafted Terrell Davis did they win back-to-nback Super Bowls.

If the Falcons are going to get to the Super Bowl now, it will be because of a running game. Steven Jackson ran for 77 yards on 11 carries.

Close but no cigar

On the last opportunity to win the game, rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro tipped a pass intended for tight end Tony Gonzalez to seal the win.

On third and goal on the previous play, On third-and-goal, Ramon Humber broke up a pass for Steven Jackson at the goal line.