KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez celebrated his emotional return to the city where he started his NFL career with an emphatic touchdown, dunk celebration and a victory.
He was acknowledged by the crowd during introductions.
“When they came out and said the Lamar Hunt family wants to welcome you back and the fans made all of the noise, that was just an unbelievable feeling,” Gonzalez said. “It was good to be back.”
Gonzalez caught the early bus over to the stadium from the Falcons’ hotel. There were several people, from stadium workers to the Hunt family, that he wanted to greet.
He even made time to swing by his old condo and take some pictures.
“It’s just been a good homecoming for me,” Gonzalez said. “It was great to see all of the fans out there. I saw all of the signs out there and I just want to tell the fans that I love you very much. I thanked them for making this day very special.”
Gonzalez was elated to score on a seven-yard touchdown that put the Falcons up 34-17 in the third quarter.
“It was great,” Gonzalez said. “[Chiefs linebacker] Derrick Johnson, I’ve gone against him a bunch in practice. He had me pretty well [covered], but Matt threw the ball perfectly and I was able to get in there.”
Even his teammates were moved by the tributes.
“It was awesome,” tight end Michael Palmer said. “I got chill bumps when he got that standing ovation coming out of the tunnel. It was really cool and to get to see him dunk the ball after he scored the touchdown.”
But the KC fans did realize he was playing for the other team now. The fans turned on Gonzalez when he caught his first pass in Arrowhead Stadium as a Falcon and showered him with more boos when he dunked the football over the goal post after scoring a touchdown in the 40-24 thrashing on Sunday.
New return men
Jacquizz Rodgers, the team’s new kickoff returner, broke loose for a 77-yard return.
The kickoff return by Rodgers was the longest for the Falcons since Eric Weems returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown against Tampa Bay on Dec. 5, 2010.
“The guys up front did a good job of blocking,” Rodgers said. “It was easy for me to just find a hole and take off. Next time, I just have to finish it off with a touchdown.”
Cornerback Dominique Franks called a fair catch on his only punt return attempt.
Jones makes a splash
Julio Jones led the Falcons in receiving yards with 108 on six catches and two touchdowns.
“That’s how we practice; uptempo,” said Jones, talking about their style of play. “I was just trying to catch everything. Everybody stepped up today and caught everything.”
Jones got off to a fast start with three catches on the opening drive.
“If you are going to single me, we just try to take the matchups,” Jones said. “You can’t double all three of us. They started out doubling Tony and Roddy [White], so I had the one-on-one. I had to step up and make plays.”
The Falcons finished with three sacks and four quarterback hits on Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel.
Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, defensive end John Abraham and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux each had a sack.
“We started the game out kind of slow,” Babineaux said. “I think they had the upper hand on us throughout the first half. We came in and made some adjustments at halftime. We came out and started playing Falcons football. We started getting turnovers and rallying to the ball. Once we started doing that, the momentum changed and we kept the pressure on them.”
Cornerback Asante Samuel started on the left side and Brent Grimes was moved to the right side.
Samuel, acquired in an offseason trade with Philadelphia, finished with three tackles and one pass broken up.
He was generally pleased with his first game with the Falcons.
“Today went pretty good,” Samuel said. “It was not perfect. It was all right. We just have to get better and correct our mistakes.”
Michael Turner was held to 32 yards on 11 carries (2.9 yard per carry). The Falcons rushed for 84 yards on 23 carries (3.7 per carry).
Turner and Ryan had the rushing long of the game as both had an 11-yard rush.
The 40 points the Falcons scored were the most points scored in a season opener since Sept. 9 1990, when the Falcons beat the Houston Oilers 47-27 at Fulton County Stadium. … The win over the Chiefs marked the franchise’s 300th victory. …The offense had four drives of 70-yards or more with three ending with touchdowns. … Ryan has thrown at least one touchdown in 16 straight regular season games dating back to 2011.