KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tony Gonzalez boarded the first bus to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, eager to arrive as early as possible to start what's likely his final season in the place where it all began.
"It's been like a homecoming for me," Gonzalez said. "I just want all the fans to know, 'I love you very much and thank you for letting this day be special.'"
They didn't have much choice.
The highlight, though, was Gonzalez, the five-time All-Pro who spent his first 12 seasons in Kansas City. After making his touchdown grab, the ball squirted loose in the end zone. Ryan tracked it down and pushed it into Gonzalez's hands, and as he'd done so many times, the former college hoops player dunked the ball over the goalpost -- getting mostly boos from a crowd that once cheered him.
"He's such a great part of this organization, you know, probably the greatest tight end to ever play the game," Ryan said. "I think deep down in their hearts, Kansas City fans were happy to see that one more time.
"Maybe not at the time," Ryan quickly added. "Maybe in retrospect."
Atlanta scored 20 unanswered points to put the game away.
"It's only one game in a long season," Cassel said. "We obviously have to make a lot of corrections and get better as a football team. We've got to play collectively."
There was no controversy surrounding the replacement officials. Both times that referee Mike Shepherd went under the hood for a video review, the original call stood.
"The fact that they weren't there, really no one cares," said Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel, "because all anyone wants to know is did you win or did you lose, and we lost today."
Ryan set the tone with the Falcons' opening series, marching 80 yards behind pinpoint passing before an 8-yard pass to Jones made it 7-0 midway through the first quarter.
Cassel was 4 for 4 on the series, including a 21-yard pass to Dwayne Bowe and a 22-yard touchdown toss to tight end Kevin Boss, who was signed in the offseason to make precisely the kind of finger-tip grabs down the seam that got him into the end zone Sunday.
The teams kept trading haymakers the rest of the half.
Bryant added his second field goal just before half time for Atlanta, but Succop banged his own 40-yard try off the upright early in the second half, shifting the momentum for good.
The Falcons' potent passing offense marched down field, Ryan capping the drive with a 5-yard scramble for a touchdown.
Three plays later, Cassel was blindsided by John Abraham and the ball squirted loose, and Stephen Nicholas pounced on it at the 7. Ryan hit Gonzalez in the back of the end zone on the very next play for a 34-17 lead, effectively putting the game away.
NOTES: Atlanta CB Brent Grimes left in the fourth quarter with a calf injury. ... Rookie DT Dontari Poe started in place of Toribio for Kansas City. ... Nicholas had a game-high 12 tackles, recovered a fumble, picked off a pass and had two pass deflections for Atlanta. ... Bryant finished 4 for 4 on FGs for Atlanta.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press