Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (88) runs the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
FLOWERY BRANCH -- Now that's more like it.
After a confounding up-and-down season that ended with a dismal playoff loss, the Atlanta Falcons were determined to take advantage of their myriad offensive weapons.
They sure looked impressive in a season-opening win over Kansas City. Led by Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, the Falcons scored on their first eight possessions of a 40-24 victory, not even needing their punter until the final minutes with the game out of reach.
"That was about as high-powered as it gets," cornerback Dunta Robinson said Monday. "Any time your punter has the day off, you're doing pretty good as an offense."
The Falcons had all these weapons a year ago -- Ryan and Jones, not to mention Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner -- but never seemed to find any offensive consistency. They scored more than 40 points a couple of times, at least 30 in five other games. But they were held to 16 or less in six contests, saving their ugliest performance for the end.
Atlanta's offense was shut out in the playoffs, a safety accounting for the only points in a 24-2 setback to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
So, the goal heading into the next game -- Monday night's home opener against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos -- is to maintain some consistency over the long haul. New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has tried to simplify the scheme just a bit for Ryan, making It easier to read defenses and pick up the open receiver.
Judging by how impressive Manning looked in his first game with the Broncos, the Falcons will need another high-scoring effort.
"We felt like we had all the tools," center Todd McClure said. "We knew if we executed right, we could have that type of production. But going into the game, we probably didn't think it would be that easy or we'd put up that many points."
Facing a short-handed Kansas City defense, the Falcons were basically unstoppable. They averaged 6.8 yards per play and finished with 376 yards overall. Ryan completed 23 of 31 for 299 yards, accounting for three touchdowns through the air (not to mention another with a rare run). Jones, a second-year receiver who looked a bit lost as a rookie, seems poised for a huge season after making six catches for 108 yards, including a pair of TDs.
If there was anything to quibble about, it was the failure to score even more points. The Falcons had some great field position, starting four of their nine possessions inside Chiefs territory through a long kickoff return by Jacquizz Rodgers and three second-half turnovers by the defense. They also put together a long drive to set up first-and-goal at the Kansas City 3 late in the first half, only to settle for one of Matt Bryant's four field goals.
Clearly, the Falcons would prefer more touchdowns and not so many field goals, but it's hard to complain too much about their efficiency in the red zone -- especially playing in raucous Arrowhead Stadium.
"It's tough to go win on the road," McClure said. "To go do that in a loud environment like Kansas City, it shows what we have as an offense."