ATLANTA — That fresh start the Chiefs wanted will have to wait until next week or perhaps another time during their exhibition schedule.
Or it may not come at all, judging by the work of their starters in Friday night's preseason opener, a 20-10 loss to the Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Chiefs trailed 3-0 by the time their starters departed in the second quarter.
Playing their reserves, the Chiefs came back to tie the game 3-3 at halftime, but backup quarterback Brodie Croyle was intercepted by Shann Shillinger on the first possession of the second half.
Shillinger's 29-yard return put the Falcons at the Kansas City 14. Five plays later Dimitri Nance scored on a 2-yard run and put the Falcons ahead for good.
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Nance also scored on a 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter, putting Atlanta ahead 17-3.
For much of the first half, the Chiefs looked suspiciously the way they did in last year's forgettable 4-12 season. The run defense was easy for the Falcons to solve on the game's opening possession.
Atlanta rushed for 44 yards in driving for Matt Bryant's 30-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead. Mike Vrabel ended the drive by tackling running back Jason Snelling for no gain on a third-down play.
"We wanted to go out there and set the tone early,'' said Atlanta running back Michael Turner, who had four carries for 29 yards on the drive. "I thought we had a couple of big runs. I thought the (offensive line) had a great push at the beginning. We just didn't come out with a touchdown.''
The Chiefs' starting defense tightened from there, allowing no more points on two additional Atlanta possessions. But the starting offense generated little in four possessions.
The Chiefs ran three plays and punted the first time they had the ball and turned the ball over on the next possession when quarterback Matt Cassel was sacked and fumbled.
Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster then provided a spark, combining to rush for 62 yards as the Chiefs twice worked their way into field-goal range.
But each time, Ryan Succop missed a 53-yard field goal. The first hit the left upright, and the second try went wide to the right.
Atlanta also missed two field goal tries of 50 yards or more in the first half.
The Chiefs managed their only points of the first half on Succop's 20-yard field goal on the final play.
On Croyle's first possession, the Chiefs drove 78 yards in less than 4 minutes on a series of short gains.
The longest play of the drive came on Croyle's 19-yard pass to Kestahn Moore to the Atlanta 2. At that point, the Chiefs had time only for the final goal.
After Croyle was replaced by Tyler Palko in the fourth quarter, things disintegrated even further for the Chiefs. Palko had a pass intercepted by Chevis Jackson.
Jackson's return to the Kansas City 9 set up Steve Hauschka's 37-yard field goal for a 20-3 Atlanta lead.
Javier Arenas returned the subsequent kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, but the play was wiped out because of a holding penalty on rookie Justin Cole.
Total Net Yards273244
Interceptions Ret. 0-02-55
Time of Possession25:0834:52
Kansas City0307—10 Atlanta30710—20
Atl—FG Bryant 30, 8:26.
KC—FG Succop 20, :00.
Atl—Nance 2 run (Hauschka kick), 11:37.
Atl—Nance 1 run (Bryant kick), 14:23.
Atl—FG Hauschka 37, 11:23.
KC—Palko 1 run (Succop kick), :18.
Rushing—Kansas City, J.Williams 7-38, Charles 4-37, McCluster 5-25, Palko 2-12, Moore 2-6, Battle 4-5, Croyle 2-5, Jones 2-2. Atlanta, Smith 12-36, Turner 4-29, Snelling 11-24, Nance 7-6, Ryan 1-5, Wilson 2-0.
Passing—Kansas City, Palko 8-13-1-66, Croyle 8-15-1-65, Cassel 6-8-0-25. Atlanta, Wilson 8-16-0-80, Ryan 3-6-0-34, Redman 4-7-0-30.
Receiving—Kansas City, McCluster 3-23, Moore 2-21, Banks 2-18, J.Williams 2-16, Pope 2-12, Gunnell 2-7, Charles 2-6, Tucker 1-13, Slate 1-12, Urban 1-7, Castille 1-6, Chambers 1-6, Cox 1-5, Battle 1-4. Atlanta, Gonzalez 2-28, Meier 2-27, Nance 2-26, Bergeron 2-13, Palmer 2-12, White 1-22, Peelle 1-6, Strickland 1-6, Turner 1-6, Smith 1-(minus 2).
Missed Field Goals—Kansas City, Succop 53 (WL), 53 (WR). Atlanta, Bryant 50 (WR), Hauschka 53 (SH).