In a 40-24 loss at home, the short-handed defense of the Kansas City Chiefs couldn’t stop the high-powered offense of the Atlanta Falcons. The two teams combined only forced two punts, but Kansas City couldn’t keep up with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.
The game turned when a Ryan Succop field goal attempt clanked off the right upright with the Chiefs trailing 20-17 in the third quarter. Ryan would rush for a touchdown on the next drive to put the Chiefs down two scores.
Matt Cassel and the rest of the Kansas City offense was impressive in the first half, but eventually faltered without the aid of the running game. Cassel’s threw two interceptions, but it was the performance of the defense that was disappointing for Kansas City.
The Chiefs were without their best pass rusher in Tamba Hali and Ryan had plenty of time to find Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez running open in the secondary. Jones victimized backup cornerback Jacques Reeves repeatedly; Reeves was starting for the injured Brandon Flowers.
It was the combination of no pass rush and poor pass coverage that doomed the home team on Sunday and the surprisingly stout run defense by Kansas City wasn’t a factor. The strength of this Chiefs team was supposed to be the defense, but without Hali and Flowers didn’t look like anything resembling a top-five unit.
Kansas City will get Hali back from suspension in Week 2 and Flowers could also be back so the defense will be looking to rebound against a Buffalo Bills team that was blown out by the New York Jets in Week 1.
If the defense can keep the Chiefs in the game, Cassel demonstrated he can score enough points to win. Cassel passed for 258 yards and was finding his tight ends Tony Moeaki and Kevin Boss with good frequency in the first half. Jamaal Charles, Peyton Hillis, Shaun Draughn and a scrambling Cassel rushed for 152 rushing yards and 4.8 yards per carry and kept the Falcons defense honest until the Chiefs were forced to play from behind.
Dexter McCluster carried over his strong preseason into the regular season with six receptions for 82 yards, but Jon Baldwin had no receptions and was rarely on the field for Kansas City. The Chiefs will need to get Baldwin more involved in future weeks to open up more room for McCluster and the tight ends in the middle of the field.
It was a disappointing opener for head coach Romeo Crennel, but he has to be encouraged that his offense put up 24 points. Crennel will be banking on better defensive performance once he gets all 11 starters on the field together.