The Atlanta Falcons traveled to Kansas City and beat the Chiefs 40-24 Sunday. It was Atlanta’s first opening-week road win in three years.
Here are five other things learned by Atlanta’s 16-point win:
- Offensive efficiency: The offense moved the ball down the field with relative ease as it racked up 376 total yards. The offense was great in just about every aspect as Matt Ryan accounted for 299 yards, three touchdowns, a rushing touchdowns and he did so without throwing an interception. It was clear to see the influence of new offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter, on the Falcons’ offense. Ryan connected on four passes of 25 yards or more and five in the 15- to 24-yard range. He also utilized the pick screen to perfection.
- Second-half adjustments on defense: The Falcons went into halftime only leading by three points. Up until that point, the Chiefs had pretty much matched the Falcons’ offense score-for-score. It seemed as if the defense was playing some soft zones in the first half, making it easy for Cassel to throw short passes underneath the coverage. But the Atlanta defense came out in the second half on fire. With the Falcons already up by 10 late in the third, the pass rush that was much maligned last season, showed up. John Abraham got to Matt Cassel deep in Kansas City’s territory and caused a fumble that was recovered by Stephen Nicholas. That would lead to a score one play later. On the next Chiefs’ possession, William Moore intercepted a tipped pass. That too would lead to a Falcons score a few plays later. If the Falcons defense can cause turnovers and give the new offense even more time to operate, this team could be special.
- The team’s intensity as a whole: Atlanta came out with an attitude that wasn’t present in previous seasons. The first thing I noticed was how Ryan celebrated his rushing touchdown. Ryan is known as ‘Matty Ice’ because of his cool, calm and collected demeanor. But the way he celebrated that one touchdown showed that maybe he’s reached a new level in his progression as the leader of this team. Secondly, the defense was doing a lot of talking out on the field yesterday and not only were they talking, they were backing it up. They looked more intense and focused than we’ve seen them in a while. Mike Nolan made the needed adjustments at halftime and from that point forward, the defense was flying all over the field.
- A new attitude on offense: Over the last few seasons, one of the problems the Falcons had was conservative play calling once they got the lead. In the past, once they got the lead, they would go into ‘protect the lead’ mode instead of completely putting a team away. That wasn’t the case Sunday. Following Moore’s interception late in the third, and while already up by 17, the Falcons came out passing the ball. In the past, the Chiefs would’ve gotten a healthy dose of Michael Turner. It looks as if Koetter is looking to put teams away when the opportunity presents itself and that’s good news for Atlanta.
- Special Teams will be fine: With the departure of Eric Weems, all eyes were on Jacquizz Rodgers as he started at the kick return spot formerly occupied by Weems. Rodgers took his first NFL kickoff return for 77 yards, to the Kansas City 24-yard line, which would set up a Matt Bryant field goal. Adding an explosive option in the return game, like Rodgers, now makes the Falcons dangerous on not only the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, but special teams as well.