The Atlanta Falcons’ opening game against the Kansas City Chiefs was really two separate games. The first half was tightly contested, with both teams scoring early and often. Atlanta went into halftime with a slim 20-17 lead and then blew the game wide open, scoring 20 unanswered points en route to a 40-24 win.
Following the victory, here are a few things we now know about the 2012 Falcons:
The Falcons’ passing game looks promising. One big question entering this season was how often Atlanta would throw the ball. Using Dirk Koetter’s fast-tempo passing attack, the answer appears to be a lot. Matt Ryan finished the game 23-of-31 for 299 yards and three touchdowns. In addition, Ryan didn’t focus on just one or two receivers, completing multiple passes to five different players.
One reason for the success of the passing game was the improved pass protection. Dropping back to throw 30-plus times, Ryan was sacked only one time. Left tackle Sam Baker did a good job of protecting Ryan’s blindside throughout the game.
While the focus of the passing attack will be Julio Jones and Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez is still a viable option. Jones and White finished with six catches each for a combined 195 yards. Gonzalez brought down five passes for 53 yards and a touchdown. Gonzalez may be 36 years old, but he can still come through when needed.
When the Falcons couldn’t score touchdowns on Sunday, they turned to their kicker Matt Bryant. He didn’t disappoint, going four for four both on field goals and extra points, scoring a total of 16 points.
While Atlanta’s offense was good throughout the game, the defense had trouble getting off the field. Kansas City was 11-of-16 on third-down conversions. It didn’t seem to matter if it was third and short, medium or long. The Falcons’ defense just had difficulty getting Matt Cassel off the field.
One main reason for Atlanta’s inability to get off the field was their lack of pressure from the defensive line. Cassel finished the game completing 21 of 33 passes for 258 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t until late in the third quarter when the Falcons finally recorded their first of three sacks.
If Ryan continues to throw for nearly 300 yards a game, the lack of a running game shouldn’t be a problem. However everyone knows there will be a game when Ryan is shut down and the game will have to be won in the trenches.
The Falcons amassed just 84 yards on 23 attempts. Atlanta’s starting running back, Michael Turner, only ran for 32 yards on 11 attempts and it was Ryan who scored the lone rushing touchdown for the Falcons.
While it’s tough to complain about a team scoring 40 points in a game, Atlanta’s lack of red zone efficiency prevented them from putting up 50 points. Atlanta made it inside the Chiefs 20 yard-line seven times but only scored four touchdowns including going two for three with a “goal to go” situation.
That being said, a win is a win and Atlanta is off to a good start. They hope to carry the momentum of their Week 1 game into their Monday Night game against Denver for the home opener.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.