KANSAS CITY -- Tony Gonzalez blew kisses to Chiefs fans while they cheered him as he stepped onto the Arrowhead Stadium turf for the first time since being traded to Atlanta in 2009.
Those cheers quickly turned to boos as he pulled his signature dunking of the ball over the goal post after scoring one of four Falcons touchdowns on the day.
The Atlanta offense wore down a depleted Chiefs defensive unit to earn a 40-24 win on opening day in Kansas City.
The Chiefs (0-1) were without the services of suspended defensive lineman Tamba Hali and had injuries to key contributors like defensive back Brandon Flowers and linebacker Derrick Johnson. That opened things up for the Falcons (1-0), who scored on all but their ninth and final drive of the game.
Quarterback Matt Ryan opened things up with an eight-yard connection with Julio Jones, vaulting the Falcons to an early 7-0 lead. That capped off a methodical 12-play, 80-yard drive and gave a glimpse of what was to come.
The Chiefs offense did not provide an immediate, explosive reply. But, Ryan Succop was in range to boot a 39-yard field goal, making the score 7-3. Succop missed on his only other attempt, bouncing the kick off the left upright.
Falcons kicker Matt Bryant responded with a 34-yard boot of his own to put Atlanta up 10-3 before the first quarter expired.
Kansas City's first drive did not include much open space for the running game. But, their second saw things start to spread out for the tandem of Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis.
In Charles' first game an ACL tear robbed him of the 2011 season, he looked as though he hadn't lost a step. He finished as the game's leading rusher with 87 yards on 15 carries. Hillis carried seven times for 16 yards.
The run game allowed the Chiefs to march down the field to the 22-yard line. There, quarterback Matt Cassel found a diving Kevin Boss for a touchdown connection, tying the game at 10-10.
After Atlanta marched into the red zone on their next possession, Ryan found Jones again on a slant route, which Jones carried for a 14-yard score. In all, the pair connected six times for 108 yards and the two scores.
Matt Ryan finished with 299 yards and three scores, completing 23 of 31 passes.
The Chiefs continued to slug it out on offense, as Cassel answered by plunging past the goal line on a five-yard keeper, knotting the game back up at 17-17. He'd finish with 21-for-33 with 258 yards, one score and a pair of interceptions.
Bryant connected on one more field goal attempt, this time from 24-yards out, to push Atlanta back to a 20-17 lead heading into the locker room.
In the second half, Gonzalez found his old Arrowhead magic. After Ryan scored on a his own five-yard scramble, Gonzalez hauled in a seven-yard pass for another Falcons score, making it 34-17. He caught five balls totaling 53 yards on the day.
"I wasn't even going to dunk it," he said. "But Ryan came over and shoved it in my chest and said 'Go dunk that ball!'. I don't think I have words to do justice to the fans. I want them to know I love them very much."
Bryant would connect on two more kicks of 30 and 41 yards to push the Falcons' lead to 23.
Running back Shaun Draughn punched in a late score to shrink the deficit to 40-24 before the final whistle. He carried six times for 29 yards.
Head Coach Romeo Crennel liked what he saw from the offense out of the gate, but acknowledged how the defense could not match the effort.
"Offensively, I think there are some bright things there," he said. "Defensively, I think the running game, the fact that we were able to stop the run, that's important for us. Now, what we have do to is do a better job of rushing the passer and containing the quarterback."
The Chiefs head to Buffalo to face the Bills next Sunday.