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D. Orlando LedbetterD. Orlando Ledbetter

Falcons’ road to redemption starts with the Saints

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JACKSONVILLE – The big gamble to go standby on the 6:35 a.m. flight didn’t pay off.

So, now I have about three hours to blow and wanted to put up a blog from last night’s festivities.

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Freddie Martino (18) outruns Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jeremy Harris (31) and other defenders enroute to a 67-yard touchdown during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Freddie Martino (18) outruns Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jeremy Harris (31) and other defenders enroute to a 67-yard touchdown during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Found it a little ironic that after T.J. Yates’ dazzling performance, Falcons coach Mike Smith wouldn’t name him the backup quarterback.

“We’re not going to make any declarations,” Smith said. “The only declaration that I’ll make is that Matt Ryan is our starting quarterback. Julio Jones is our starting wide receiver and Roddy White is our starting wide receiver. Those things are set in stones. I’m going out on a limb.”

Smith made it clear that he was looking forward to the opener against the New Orleans Saints at 1 p.m. Sept. 7 at the Georgia Dome.

“It will be a great way to kick off the season against a division opponent, a very good football team,” Smith said. “I know our guys will be focused about starting the regular season. It gets real here, real quick.”

Smith, the winningest coach in team history, is 3-9 against the Saints.

After going 4-12 last season, the Falcons are looking to turn things around quickly.

The Saints are just about everyone’s pick to win the NFC South, while most see the Falcons as the third-place team capable of posting an 8-8 or 9-7 type record.

The Falcons could serve notice of their return to contender status by throttling the Saints.

So, is there such a thing as must-win season-opener?

FINAL EXHIBITION GAME: Falcons 24, Jaguars 14

Yates leads Falcons to victory over Jaguars

PHOTO GALLERY from the win over Jacksonville

Falcons convert in short yardage situation

Falcons rest key starters in exhibition finale

Roster spots were up for grabs against Jacksonville

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