The Kansas City Chiefs fell to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, 40-24.
Early on things looked good for Romeo Crennel and the Chiefs offense, as it looked like the one that helped take home a division title two years ago. However, the short-handed defense couldn’t stop Matt Ryan and Falcons offense.
On the first possession of the game, Atlanta easily marched down the field for 80 yards and things never really got much more difficult for the Falcons. WR Julio Jones was wide open all day long and when Ryan wanted to mix things up, he would easily find one of the other five players that caught passes against the porous Chiefs secondary.
The Chiefs were down just three points at half and were in position to tie the game early in the third quarter after a 10-play drive, but kicker Ryan Succop missed a 40-yard field goal. The Falcons responded by scoring 20 unanswered points as the wheels quickly fell off for Crennel in his first game as the Chiefs head coach without the interim tag.
Making things even worse for the Chiefs fans was Tony Gonzalez putting the nail in the coffin with a 7-yard touchdown in the third quarter. To top it off, Gonzalez dunked the ball over the crossbar, something folks around Kansas City have seen countless times over the years.
Despite the loss and the terrible second half, there were positives to take from the game. Maybe the biggest is that the suspended Tamba Hali will be back on the field for Kansas City next week when they travel to take on the Buffalo Bills. The injured Brandon Flowers could finally get back into the fold for the Chiefs.
As for the players that did play Sunday, here are the three most deserving of a game ball on offense, defense and special teams.
Offense: Dexter McCluster
Were you wondering why 2011 first-round pick Jon Baldwin was nowhere to be seen Sunday against the Falcons? If you saw McCluster consistently getting wide open then you have your answer.
Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston were holding things down outside while McCluster did work out of the slot, catching a game-high six passes for 82 yards. He still rarely breaks any tackles — I counted one — but the speedster was helping Matt Cassel and the offense move the chains and keep Baldwin standing on the sidelines with his arms folded.
Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will need to find a way to get Baldwin on the field, though it’s hard to believe it will be at the expense of McCluster if he can get open this easily.
Defense: Dontari Poe
There were no plans to throw the No. 11 overall pick into the fire quickly. However, when starting nose tackle Anthony Toribio went down with an injury and depth already a concern in the middle, Poe found himself next up.
No one will jump up and down about the raw stats — two tackles, one for a loss — and there’s a lot of work to be done, but Poe showed more than could have possibly been expected. He was taking on double teams and helping the Chiefs hold the Falcons to just 84 yards rushing.
Once he gets to play against an offense that needs to account for Hali on every play, he’ll get more one-on-one matchups and that’s when we can expect to see him disrupting things in the backfield.
Special Teams: Dustin Colquitt
Unfortunately, a new special teams coach didn’t seem to change much for the Chiefs on their coverage units in the season opener. Falcons speedster Jacquizz Rodgers made it look easy as he took a kick back 77 yards. And then there was Succop and his key miss in the third quarter.
The one member of the Chiefs special teams that did his job perfectly? Colquitt! He was only asked to punt once and he turned in a 47 yarder inside the 20 that couldn’t be returned by Atlanta.