Final Score: 40-24 Falcons. And yes, Tony Gonzalez did find the end zone.
One of the few games I had a feel for this weekend, the Falcons went into Arrowhead and their high powered offense was almost on full display for their Week 1 showcase. The only reason it wasn’t on full display is because the running game (outside of a Matt Ryan rushing touchdown) was basically nonexistent. Outside of that, the Falcons got off to a head start in their own division, thanks to some help from the Washington Redskins, and now hold an edge over the two teams I projected to finish ahead of them in the South (Carolina and New Orleans). Did the Chiefs look awful. Not at all. Sure, they gave up 40 points but most teams would without their two starting cornerbacks on the field from a season ago. So I’m not ready to hit the panic button in Kansas City. As expected, this was a high scoring affair and both of these offenses should continue to be explosive in 2012.
What did I learn from this game? That I know more about the Kansas City Chiefs than the New York Jets apparently, that’s for starters. I learned that Jamaal Charles is back and healthy. The Falcons don’t have an all-world rush defense but Charles was still able to average over five yards per touch over 16 carries. Not a tremendous workload but enough to get his feet wet in his first official game back. Peyton Hillis, who was brought in to be Charles’ primary backup, was held to 16 yards on seven carries. Clearly his progress is still being impeded by the 2011 Madden Curse. Sticking with the Chiefs offense, I would have loved to have seen the line on Dexter McCluster leading the Chiefs in receiving yards before the game. Anyone who took that prop bet has to be one of the richer people in the world today. The third year swiss army knife caught six balls for 82 yards while no other Chiefs’ receiver caught more than three passes on the day.
For the Falcons, I want to hold back my praises until I see them do it against a legitimate NFL secondary. As far as I’m concerned, Stanford Routt is NOT a #1 corner on any team. Brandon Flowers, the Chiefs’ top corner back, sat out with an injury. It was also the first game for the Chiefs’ secondary without Brandon Carr, who now plays for the Dallas Cowboys. Now I don’t want to take anything away from Atlanta either. After putting up ZERO offensive points in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, it was nice to see that they remembered how to find the endzone. Ryan was able to throw for three scores while rushing one in himself. If he can keep this up, he may win his first playoff game this year. The breakdown of Michael Turner was heavily anticipated coming into this season and he was unable to shake those doubts after one game. Turner finished the game with 32 yards on 11 carries. Arguably the worst part about the Falcons’ rushing stats is that Ryan and Turner TIED for their longest rush from scrimmage (11 yards).
The good news for the Falcons: when Julio Jones is healthy, he is more than worth the expensive price they paid for his draft rights. Jones ran wild on the Chiefs’ beleaguered secondary catching six balls for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Roddy White also caught six passes on the game and reeled in 87 yards for Atlanta. When healthy, and when Matt Ryan is in a zone like he was Sunday, Jones and White could arguably the most dynamic receiving corp in the entire league. Even if a defense does have the personnel to check these two, Tony Gonzalez can still make plays like he proved on Sunday with five receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown. If and when Turner can get going, this offense is going to be damn near impossible to contain.
The horrible news for the Falcons is that they will continue on in 2012 without a pivotal member of their secondary: Brent Grimes. The former Pro Bowler tore his ACL and will not play again until 2013. While this move certainly hurts the Falcons, it makes the Asante Samuel acquisition that much more important. Samuel and Dunta Robinson will have to stay on the field in ’12 in order for this secondary to stay in tact. The further down the depth chart they are forced to go, the more trouble they will find themselves in. Especially against teams like the Saints.
When will the Chiefs get their first win? This weekend. Book it. That’s what happens when you slight me, Buffalo. Go and lay an egg against the Jets and I’ll pick you to win exactly zero games the rest of the season when given the chance. Chiefs are going to be in full beat ‘em down mode in Southern Canada to get to .500 on the year. If Stephen Hill could roast the Bills’ secondary, I can only imagine what Dwayne Bowe is going to do on Sunday.
Meanwhile the Falcons will travel back to Atlanta for their home opener against the Denver Broncos. Both teams impressed in Week 1 and this Monday Night matchup should be a good one. Someone will catch their first loss of the season and while Manning will love being back in a dome, he is going to hate seeing Asante Samuel opposite of him. Great job of scheduling by whoever the hell makes the schedule. A much better test for the Falcons passing attack on Monday Night, let’s see how they respond for their home crowd.