KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 09: Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons calls out a play against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second quarter of their season opener on September 9, 2012 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
The Atlanta Falcons flexed their muscles in a dominant win over the Chiefs on Sunday, and in doing so made a statement to the rest of the NFL that this team is for real.
Much like the Dawgs' win over Mizzou, the first half of this Falcons-Chiefs opener had us worried.
But somehow, someway, the defense got their act together at half time, and clearly showed across four quarters that the better team, once again, resides in good old Georgia. Warren Sapp's flattering 41-0 prediction had another large-mouthed defensive tackle eating his humble pie.
The offense, of course, was just fine. More than fine. In fact, they looked... I won't say elite, that word being far too cliche and overused.
How about good as hell?
Game MVP: Matt Ryan
Matty Ice started the season on fire, completing 23 of his 31 passing attempts for 299 yards and four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing). He played so well, in fact, that he topped ESPN's Total QBR list, with an impressive 97.5 rating on the day.
The rest of the offense excelled against the Chiefs as well. The offensive line kept the pocket clean all day, with Justin Houston recording the lone sack after beating Tyson Clabo around the edge. Sam Baker played surprisingly well.
And the receivers, well, they were flat-out dominant. Julio Jones caught six balls for 108 yards and a pair of touchdowns, showing top-10 talent throughout the ball game. Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez got in on the action too, catching six and five passes respectively for a combined 140 yards.
Special teams had an awesome day as well, with Matt Bryant nailing all four of his field goal attempts and Jacquizz Rodgers showing he's a dangerous return man by taking a kick back 77 yards in the first half.
Of course, there is never good without bad.
Game LVP: The first-half defense
For two quarters of play, Mike Smith's defense was about as soft as we've seen in recent years. Cassel and Charles were having absolute field days, and the D-line was effectively generating zero pressure.
But whatever changes in playcalling Mike Nolan made at halftime really, really worked. John Abraham and Jonathan Babineaux both recorded sacks. The defense forced three Cassel turnovers. Stephen Nicholas and Sean Weatherspoon were an incredibly impressive tag team at linebacker throughout the day.
But most importantly, and for perhaps the first time in this regime, I saw the Falcons make sound, positive adjustments at the half and come out swinging in the third quarter.
Last season, the Falcons' scoring differential in the third quarter was well above -100. So far this year, the Falcons are +14 in the third, and +13 after the half.
Game OMG: Brent Grimes
Grimes got hurt and left the game during the fourth quarter, and it was on Monday that we learned he will miss the rest of the season with a torn Achilles tendon. That one hurts.
Final Takeaway: If the defense can hold things together and not fall apart after losing Grimes, Ryan and the offense can easily carry this team into the playoffs, and dare I say beyond. Julio Jones is the real deal.
For more updates on the game Falcons fans should stay right here at SB Nation Atlanta. For more analysis, visit The Falcoholic, and Chiefs fans should check out Arrowhead Pride; for more news and notes from around the NFL, head over to SB Nation's NFL hub page.