But the Chiefs can’t afford to be picky. Hali is their best pass rusher. Other than a Justin Houston sack, the Chiefs accomplished little on Sunday in the way of roughing up Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, who generally had plenty of time to get his throws off.
“Houston was in the quarterback’s face a couple of times along with the sack he got,” Crennel said. “We were able to get some push on the pocket, but they were able to make the plays. We were close on some, but they didn’t make them. It’s encouraging to see you can be close on a play.”
While Toribio is a relative newcomer to the lineup, the other three each started 16 games last season, and combined for 184 tackles, a dozen sacks and seven interceptions. Hali went to the Pro Bowl for the first time, and Flowers was one of the biggest snubs.
“We knew we were limited a little bit, but we also felt like the guys we had behind them had to step and do the best they could do to help the team win,” Crennel said. “That’s what you do every week in the NFL, because you don’t have all your players healthy for every game. You’re going to miss guys sometimes, and then your backups need to step up.”
Where’s Baldwin?: Second-year WR Jon Baldwin did not start, did not receive a target and hardly played against Atlanta.
Baldwin was the talk of training camp and expected to play a meaningful role in the offense, making his disappearance on Sunday so odd.
“He’s trying to develop a role in the offense,” Crennel said. “He’s working at it, and I think eventually he will have his spot and he will be making plays, but it just didn’t come up today.”
The Chiefs started Steve Breaston and Dexter McCluster at receiver. McCluster led the team with 10 targets, and Dwayne Bowe tied with TE Tony Moeaki for second with six targets apiece.
Succop misses crucial kick: K Ryan Succop’s missed kick in the third quarter turned out to be the biggest momentum swing of the game against Atlanta.
“It felt like I put a really good stroke on it,” Succop said. “I didn’t start it far enough left of center where I needed to and it drifted on me. I’ve got to learn from it and come back and make sure I make the next one.”
Every year is a new year in the NFL because nothing, like you said the coaches are back, but the team doesn’t stay the same. You’ve got new people who’ve added to the team and they’re playing in the games so it takes awhile to develop that chemistry. You try as hard as you can in training camp to develop that, but until you start playing the games and the guys have pressure on them and have to make plays in pressure situations, that’s when that chemistry begins to mold together and the unit begins to become more of a unit.”
TEICHER: Is there anything you can do to speed that process up or do you just have to let it take its course?
CRENNEL: “Well, I think you have to let it take its course, which you do, and you go from there. Like last year, the first two games, defensively, weren’t very good at all. But you keep working with them, keep working with them, and then toward the end turned out to be halfway decent.”