Falcons vs Chiefs: Game Grades & Player Analysis for Kansas City
Sunday's matchup was a tale of two halves.
Throughout the first two quarters, Kansas City's offense mirrored the well-oiled machine that dissected the Arizona Cardinals in its 2012 preseason debut. However, it dried up following the halftime speech.
The Chiefs defense was brutalized from the first whistle to the last.
On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs' progress report was anything but.
Overall game grade — C+
Sunday's performance epitomized Matt Cassel's career as a starter—wildly inconsistent. He exploited Atlanta's secondary with ease during the first half, effortlessly manufacturing 17 points.
In the opening drive of the third quarter, Cassel and Dexter McCluster spearheaded another threatening drive while operating out of a no-huddle offense.
However, the threat proved to be a false alarm. The offense stalled, and Ryan Succop's 40-yard field goal attempt ricocheted like a pinball off of the right goal post. It was all downhill from there—Cassel's next three drives were punctuated by turnovers (2 INT, 1 FUM).
When Tom Brady hobbled off of the field in Week 1 of 2008, fans murmured, "Who is Matt Cassel?" Four years later, and there is still no definitive answer.
Other offensive weapons also struggled. Peyton Hillis (7 CAR, 16 YDS) was an afterthought, and the PA system didn't relay Jon Baldwin's name a single time throughout the day.
While the loss will overshadow the bright spots in the minds of most fans, there were flashes of promise that shouldn't go unnoticed.
The Chiefs rushing attack occasionally sparked deafening echoes inside of Arrowhead Stadium. Holes for Jamaal Charles were few and far between. However, in the second quarter, the ankle-breaker eventually bolted through Atlanta's wall of defense with a 46-yard rush.
Dexter McCluster recorded six receptions, while Dwayne Bowe and Tony Moeaki—each snatching three passes—reassured Kansas Citians that both are back up to speed.
The stock of second-year running back Shaun Draughn continued to rise as he averaged 4.8 yards per carry on Sunday.
Kansas City out-gained Atlanta with 17 more total yards, and the offense operated efficiently on third downs (converting 11 of 16).
In the end, though, turnovers bogged down the Chiefs' offensive machine.
Overall game grade — D
They may not know it yet, but cash was stuffed into the pockets of Tamba Hali and Brandon Flowers yesterday. In 2011, the two—alongside Derrick Johnson—were the pillars of a budding defense. Both were sideline spectators on Sunday, and Matt Ryan (23-31, 299 YDS, 3 TD) piloted an aerial assault.
Julio Jones (108 YDS) eclipsed the century mark, Roddy White snagged six passes, and Tony Gonzalez grabbed five of his own.
Excluding one sack by Justin Houston, the Falcons offensive line guarded Ryan like the Secret Service.
While the pass rush was nonexistent (again), Kansas City's front seven stonewalled Michael Turner (11 CAR, 32 YDS) and the Atlanta ground game.
Derrick Johnson laid any injury concerns to rest by leading the team with eight tackles. Dontari Poe also showed signs of progress after wrapping up Turner in the backfield for a one-yard loss. That's where the anorexic layer of silver lining ends.
The Chiefs defense will look better next week at Buffalo. But, then again, it can't look much worse.
Overall game grade — D-
Special teams coach Tom McMahon was a blocked punt away from a brain hemorrhage.
Jacquizz Rodgers' first kick return chewed up 77 yards, Ryan Succop's trend of missed field goals remained intact, and Javier Arenas' returns averaged less than 20 yards (19.8) on four kickoffs.
If Arenas doesn't produce a noteworthy return in the upcoming weeks, Devon Wylie will be the one awaiting kickoffs sooner than later.
Overall game grade — C-
Romeo Crennel and his staff didn't throw two interceptions, fumble after being blindsided nor push field goals wide right. The three turnovers gave the offense a black eye, but Brian Daboll's blueprint worked masterfully in the first half.
Kansas City's recent knack for dead-ball fouls didn't plague the team in Week 1—only two flags were attributed to the Chiefs.
While the home team was banged up defensively—one-third of the first-team defense was relegated to the sidelines—a healthier Kansas City unit was victimized in a similar manner during the preseason. Crennel consciously avoided tackling during the offseason, and the risk is currently outweighing the reward.
Collectively, special teams play has been abysmal throughout the past three weeks, and no signs of progress are in sight.
Kansas City's head coach is no stranger to adversity—he won a staring contest with it (in 2011) after smashing Green Bay's undefeated dreams.
Regardless, Romeo Crennel's sleeping schedule just got that much shorter.
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