1:00 PM ET, September 9, 2012
Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
Sunday Blitz: Falcons-Chiefs Recap
Gonzalez will play as a visitor at Arrowhead Stadium for the first time Sunday when the Falcons look to begin their recovery from another postseason disappointment as they meet the banged-up Chiefs.
The 12-time Pro Bowler has never played against his former team and will likely get a hero's welcome, back at the home of the franchise with which he holds team records in receptions (916), receiving yards (10,940) and touchdown catches (76).
"It's going to be a little weird being in a different locker room and coming out of that tunnel when we first come in," Gonzalez told the Chiefs' official website. "It's going to be a little weird, but I'm looking forward to it."
Gonzalez was traded to Atlanta before the 2009 season for a 2010 second-round pick that the Chiefs used on defensive back Javier Arenas. Kansas City was in a rebuilding mode, and Gonzalez wanted to play for a contender.
He went 0-3 in the playoffs with Kansas City and now has defeats the last two years with Atlanta. The Falcons fell 24-2 to the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants in a wild-card game after a 10-6 season in 2011.
Gonzalez has indicated he will likely retire after this year, and still believes the Falcons can get over the hump.
"I realize we have an opportunity to go to the playoffs, win a playoff game, and that's what I want," the future Hall of Famer said. "I've been playing my whole career for a chance to go to the Super Bowl and I feel we have as good a chance as anybody."
Ryan and Smith have been together for a franchise-record four straight winning seasons, but their 0-3 postseason mark has the Falcons still looking for their first playoff win since the 2004 season.
Atlanta is confident it can take the next step in 2012.
"I think this is probably the most talented group we've had up to this point," receiver Roddy White said. "We can all run. I think our team's fast. I think we play fast. I think it can be special."
The Falcons certainly have plenty of talent, with the NFC's leading returning rusher in Michael Turner and top receivers in White and Julio Jones. Ryan threw for a career-high 29 touchdowns last year, including 20 in the final nine regular-season games against four interceptions.
There are new coordinators on both sides of the ball, with Dirk Koetter on offense and Mike Nolan on defense.
Nolan will likely use more schemes with three cornerbacks than with three linebackers. That's because Atlanta added four-time Pro Bowler Asante Samuel to a unit that includes fellow corners Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson.
"The (Falcons) secondary in general is an outstanding secondary, probably one of the best secondaries we'll go up against all year," Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel said.
Cassel was limited to nine games a year ago due to a hand injury as he enters his fourth season with Kansas City, which went 7-9 after winning the AFC West the previous season.
A tumultuous season saw Romeo Crennel take over as coach for Todd Haley for the final three games. The Chiefs won two of them, handing the Packers their lone regular-season defeat in Crennel's debut and helping him earn the permanent job.
Crennel, however, faces a new set of problems with his defense. The unit will be without linebacker Tamba Hali, suspended for the opener for violating the league's policy on substance abuse.
Linebacker Derrick Johnson is bothered by a bad ankle, cornerback Brandon Flowers has a bum heel, safety Kendrick Lewis is dealing with a shoulder injury and backup cornerback Jalil Brown has been trying to recover from a groin strain.
If Flowers and Brown do not play, veteran Jacques Reeves could be called upon to shadow either White or Jones. It's also hard to know what to expect from safety Eric Berry, a Pro Bowler in his 2010 rookie season who is coming back from a torn ACL.
"Other guys have to step up and they have to be relentless," Crennel said. "Like Eric Berry, he's going to be relentless with or without Tamba. I think other guys will have to play the same way."
There could be a greater urgency to get snaps for first-round draft pick Dontari Poe, a defensive tackle the Chiefs hoped to use as a situational pass rusher but now could be starting.
Improvement in a running game that wasn't very productive last season would help keep the injury-plagued defense off the field. The Chiefs led the league with 2,627 rushing yards in 2010 only to fall to 15th with 1,893 yards one year later while finishing with an AFC-low 20 touchdowns.
Ryan was a rookie the last time these teams met nearly four years ago. He threw a 70-yard TD pass to White, and Turner gained 104 yards and scored three times in the Falcons' 38-14 victory.
More from ESPN.com
Banks' false accuser ordered to pay $2.6M
A woman who falsely accused Atlanta Falcons rookie linebacker Brian Banks of rape has been ordered to pay The Long Beach Unified School District $2.6 million.
Ex-Falcon Turner reportedly gets probation
Former Falcons running back Michael Turner, who was arrested on charges of drunken driving last September, reportedly pleaded guilty to a lesser charge on Feb. 28, a day before he was released by Atlanta.
Fox: Ryan is in position to follow Flacco's path
It's risky, but everything is in place for Matt Ryan to try for a Joe Flacco deal, writes Ashley Fox.
Falcons' GM not ruling out another signing
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said Wednesday he likes what he has seen of his team through offseason workouts.
Atlanta Falcons: Gleason radio segment 'completely inappropriate'
The Atlanta Falcons spoke out after a radio program on 790 The Zone singled out former New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason, mocking his battle with ALS. One of the three Atlanta radio hosts involved in a segment in which they mocked Steve Gleason said he got
Falcons stadium design gets committee approval
Bill Johnson, senior principal with 360 Architecture, presents more detailed conceptual designs for the new $1 billion Atlanta Falcons stadium to the stadium development committee of the GWCC Authority at a June 17 meeting The revised conceptual design b
Pioli set to join NBC's 'Football Night in America'
Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli walks the field before an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga) From and NBC news release: Longtime NFL front office veteran and forme
Report: Former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli gets a new job with NBC
Sports Illustrated is reporting that former Kansas City Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli has a new job with NBC Sports. Pioli will work on NBC's Football Night in America program, which leads up to NBC's Sunday night NFL game. Sports Illustrated's Rich
Vahe Gregorian: Fifty years ago, pro football moved to Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In a parallel universe, the Dallas Texans of the American Football League stayed put and went defunct competing with the Dallas Cowboys. Or they bolted to New Orleans, where owner Lamar Hunt saw fertile ground and seemed inclined to m
Falcons-Chiefs: What to watch
After watching film of both teams, Scouts Inc. breaks down key elements of the Week 1 Falcons-Chiefs matchup.
• Play to strengths: Kansas City did not look good in the preseason and needs to find an identity as it heads into the regular season. Head coach Romeo Crennel wants to focus on the things that the Chiefs do well and build on that. It will be the ground game -- mixed with a solid short passing attack -- that put points on the scoreboard. This team does not have enough speed on the perimeter to be much of a high-powered downfield threat.
Recent Blog Posts
|Avg Points Allowed||24.0||40.0|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||ATL|
|Rush Yds Allowed||ATL|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Atlanta leads 2-1|
|Sep 21, 2008||ATL 38, KC 14|
|Oct 24, 2004||ATL 10, @KC 56|