The Falcons defense didn't do anyone any favors in the first half against the Chiefs on Sunday, but after the Falcons offense spotted the team a 20-17 lead, carried by Matt Ryan's impressive first-half performance, Atlanta's defense took the field and shut down the Chiefs in the second half.
Stephen Nicholas, a linebacker making a return after only playing eight games last season due to injury, led the Falcons' defensive charge. Nicholas paced the team with 12 tackles and added an interception, two passes defensed and a fumble recovery.
Nicholas' interception came early in the fourth quarter, after much of Atlanta's defensive dominance had already been established, but it served to put Atlanta further ahead in the contest. Nicholas picked off a Matt Cassel pass on Kansas City's 34-yard line, setting up a Falcons field goal on the short field.
The bigger play from Nicholas came on the fumble recovery after a sack by John Abraham on the KC 6-yard line. The Falcons held a ten-point lead at that time and Nicholas' fumble recovery gave Atlanta a potential score from seven yards out. Ryan once again made good on what the Falcons handed him, connecting with Tony Gonzalez on the first play for a touchdown. The score there began the rout by the Falcons.
While the Falcons defense allowed the Chiefs to gain 393 yards, 152 of it on the ground, much of it came in the first half and late in the game when it was already decided. In the third quarter, the defense limited the Chiefs to 11 yards rushing and 46 yards passing.
In a game that featured back-and-forth scoring, the Falcons defense was able to produce takeaways when it mattered in the third and fourth quarters to put the ball back in the hands of the offense. Safety William Moore added an interception late in the third quarter to once again stop the Chiefs. Moore's interception came on KC's possession following the Abraham sack and forced fumble.
On three straight possessions the Falcons forced turnovers before forcing the game's first punt halfway through the fourth quarter. At that point, the Falcons had built the 40-17 lead.
In addition to Abraham's sack, Sean Weatherspoon and Jonathan Babineaux added one each. The Falcons defense added seven tackles for loss on the day, led by Weatherspoon and Abraham with two each.