Gonzalez makes winning return to Arrowhead Stadium

Associated Press Published: September 10, 2012
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The best assist that Matt Ryan dished out Sunday wasn't one of the two touchdown throws to Julio Jones, or even his pass that found Tony Gonzalez for a third-quarter touchdown.

It was after Gonzalez had scored, when Ryan picked up a loose ball rolling around in the end zone. The Falcons quarterback ran over to Gonzalez, shoved it into his arms and told the longtime Chiefs tight end to celebrate, just like he did in the old days at Arrowhead Stadium.

Gonzalez took a couple steps, leaped and dunked it over the goal post.

The perfect celebration for the perfect season opener, as far as the Falcons were concerned.

Ryan passed for 299 yards, and even added a touchdown run to his three scores through the air, helping the Falcons whip Kansas City 40-24. Gonzalez had five catches for 53 yards as he began what is likely the final season of his sterling career in the place where it all began.

"It's been like a homecoming for me," Gonzalez said. "There's nothing better than Chiefs fans. There are so many of them and so many diehards. It's a special feeling to come home like this."

The reason Gonzalez ended up with Atlanta before the 2009 season is because the Chiefs were rebuilding and he wanted to play for a contender. He'd never won a playoff game in Kansas City, and still hasn't with the Falcons — so he's back for one more season in the trenches.

Gonzalez's touchdown catch in the third quarter gave Atlanta a 34-17 lead, part of a streak of 20 unanswered points that turned a close, offensive shootout into a rout.

"He's such a great part of this organization, you know, probably the greatest tight end to ever play the game. I think deep down in their hearts, Kansas City fans were happy to see that one more time," Ryan said, pausing. "Maybe not at the time. Maybe in retrospect they will be."

The Chiefs' Matt Cassel threw for 258 yards and had touchdowns running and throwing, but he also fumbled deep in Kansas City territory to set up a short TD, and his two interceptions created short fields that the Falcons turned into field goals by Matt Bryant.

Jamaal Charles had 87 yards rushing, and Tony Moeaki had three catches for 37 yards, both providing a bright spot for Kansas City. The pair of them, along with safety Eric Berry, played their first regular-season games since tearing their left ACLs last season.

Things weren't nearly as bright for the Chiefs defense, which had Pro Bowl linebacker Tamba Hali sitting out a one-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.

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