For a Chiefs team facing a high-powered Falcons offense without suspended pass-rusher Tamba Hali, star cornerback Brandon Flowers and starting free safety Kendrick Lewis; pretty much everyone around the league knew the Chiefs would have to play flawlessly to win at home on Sunday.
Unfortunately for Chiefs fans, that didn’t happen.
The Chiefs defense forced just one punt all day, which came late in the fourth quarter, well after the game was already decided. The offense kept up with the Falcons through the first two quarters, but simply didn’t have enough in the tank to keep the pedal down for four quarters.
Dexter McCluster— RunDMC was Matt Cassel’s go-to receiver, targeted 10 times for six catches and 82 yards. With his speed and quickness, McCluster consistently created separation against Atlanta’s linebackers and extra defensive backs.
Jamaal Charles— After showing signs during the preseason that his surgically repaired knee was ready to go, Charles showed his patented burst and cutting ability Sunday. Charles was a big reason the Chiefs offense succeeded in the first half, breaking off runs of 11 and 46 yards on drives resulting in points. All told, Charles carried it 16 times for 87 yards, leading both teams in both categories.
Why the Chiefs Lost
Ryan Succop— For a guy that completed 80 percent of his kicks last season, 24-of-30, Succop hit a slice on his second attempt on Sunday from 40 yards that would rival anything from a member of the BGA (Bad Golfers Association). With a light left-to-right breeze, he started his kick at the left upright only to watch it slice unforgivenly and plunk directly back toward him off the right upright.
The missed kick was an opportunity lost for a Chiefs team just trying to keep pace with a high-powered Falcons’ offense, killing every bit of momentum built up by the Chiefs through two quarters, and opening the door to a Falcons second-half blowout.
Matt Cassel— After a first half in which he completed 10-of-12 passes for 123 yards, ran for one touchdown and made a fantastic pass to tight end Kevin Boss for another, Cassel completely lost his composure in the second half. He started the third quarter well enough, leading the team on an 11-play 58-yard drive, but the resulting Succop missed field goal allowed the Falcons to drive down and grab a 27-17 lead.
The pressure of trying to put his team on his shoulders to mount a comeback, something that normally doesn’t bode well for the Chiefs, was obviously too much for Cassel and resulted in poor decisions by him when his team needed it most. Each of the Chiefs next three possessions ended with mistakes by Cassel—a fumble lost on a sack and two interceptions.
The Defense— There were simply way too many issues on defense to highlight just one or two reasons why this team lost on Sunday. Stated simply, the defense stunk.
Although he led the team with eight tackles, linebacker Derrick Johnson was regularly victimized in zone coverage by Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Johnson, and fellow linebacker Justin Houston (1 sack and 2 tackles), were consistently too shallow in their zone coverage, and Ryan completed pass after pass to receivers running free behind them.
Safety Eric Berry managed just two tackles against the Falcons, and was credited with the team’s single pass-defended on a solid play in man coverage against future Hall of Famer and former Chief Tony Gonzalez. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, Berry had to spend most of his time babysitting the rest of the secondary so Falcons receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White didn’t beat them deep. As a result, Ryan shredded the secondary on short and intermediate crossing routes all day long.
Who Shouldn’t Be A Chief On Monday Morning?
Jacques Reeves— The six-year veteran cornerback out of Purdue got absolutely abused on Sunday opposite Julio Jones and Roddy White. With both Flowers and nickelback Jalil Brown out because of injury, Reeves was tabbed to start opposite Stanford Routt at corner. After watching him continually get scorched by Jones and White, it makes you wonder just how bad Romeo Crennel thinks both Javiar Arenas and Travis Daniels are.
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