Matt Ryan threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for a score to lead the Atlanta Falcons to a 40-24 thumping of the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Julio Jones hauled in six balls for 108 yards and two touchdowns and Tony Gonzalez caught a touchdown pass against his former team for the Falcons (1-0), who were eliminated in the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs by the New York Giants last season.
"I really like the way our guys played, they played with a lot of passion and they played for 60 minutes and they finished," Atlanta coach Mike Smith said. "That's what you have got to do to have the success that we want to have."
After a strong first half, Matt Cassel finished 21-of-33 for 258 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Dexter McCluster caught six passes for 82 yards and Kevin Boss caught two passes for 36 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown reception for the Chiefs (0-1), who finished 7-9 in 2011.
"We ended up getting too far behind as the game went on," Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel said. "We were trying to make plays instead of taking what they were giving us at the time, but sometimes that is the course of the game."
Ryan found Jones in the end zone for an eight-yard score on the game's opening drive. Ryan methodically drove the Falcons down the field, completing 6-of-8 passes for 68 yards including a back-breaking first down on 3rd-and-8 on the Chiefs' 42-yard line where he found Jones over the middle for an 11-yard gain. Five plays later Ryan targeted the former Alabama-stand out for the touchdown.
Kansas City's first drive stalled on the Atlanta 21-yard line and it was forced to settle for a Ryan Succop 39-yard field goal. On 3rd-and-9, Cassel connected with Dwayne Bowe for 23 yards, but the Chiefs couldn't get anything going on the shortened field.
Jacquizz Rodgers returned the ensuing kickoff 77 yards to the Kansas City 24, but the Falcons couldn't get anything going on offense and were forced to settle for a 34-yard Matt Bryant field goal.
The Chiefs knotted it up on their next drive when Cassel hooked up with Boss for a diving touchdown pass in the end zone. Cassel lofted one over Boss' right shoulder and the tight end did the rest, diving forward and hauling it in to tie the game at 10-10.
Ryan found Jones for a screen pass with 7:48 remaining in the second quarter to put the Falcons up 17-10. Jones received a great block from Harry Douglas to give him the necessary room to make a play.
After doing it with his arm, Cassel did it with his legs and tied the game at 17-17 with a 5-yard scramble for a touchdown. Earlier in the drive, Jamaal Charles broke a 46-yard run to put the ball on the Atlanta 34-yard line. Back- to-back nine-yard gains put the ball on the Falcon's 10, and Cassel would do the rest, breaking a tackle on the goal line for a touchdown.
Atlanta added a field goal in the waning seconds of the first half after a 25- yard pass to Gonzalez put the falcons inside the Chief's 5-yard line. Ryan was sacked on the next play, but Atlanta got the yards back with a 7-yard pass to Roddy White. Ryan's pass on 3rd-and-goal was incomplete and Bryant sent it through the uprights from 21-yards out.
Succop missed a 40-yarder on Kansas City's opening drive in the second half after Cassel led offense down the field, exploiting the Falcons with a faster, no huddle pace. Cassel hit McCluster with a 21-yard pass before connecting with the undersized back for another 15 yards two plays later, but the drive stalled and after an incomplete pass on third down Succop hit the right upright, spoiling a chance to tie the game.
It was all Falcons from that point as they extended their spread to 27-17 when Ryan ran it in from five yards out. Earlier, Ryan found Jones with a 31-yard strike before going back to him for 19 yards two plays later. An 11-yard Turner rush put Atlanta inside the 10 of the Chiefs. Three plays later, Ryan ran it in untouched.
Stephen Nicholas pounced on a Cassel fumble, and on the very next play Ryan connected with Gonzalez for a 7-yard score.
"It has been like a homecoming for me," Gonzalez said. "The fan support and seeing all those signs out there. They made this day very special."
William Moore intercepted Cassel's pass on the ensuing drive and the Falcons turned it into three more points when Bryant nailed a 30-yard field goal.
Nicholas came up with another big defensive play after picking off Cassel on the Chiefs' following drive, but Rodgers was stood up on 3rd-and-1 and the Falcons turned to Bryant once again. This time around, Bryant made a 41- yarder.
Kansas City added a score with five seconds remaining when Shaun Draughn punched it in from four yards out.
"It is a hard thing to do, this is a really difficult place to play. The fans are unbelievable it is an awesome atmosphere and a good football team too, so for us it is a good start," Ryan said about the win.