(Photo Credit: Terry Mosley)
Written by Ernie Casanova
The Falcons started the game slowly, building momentum on each play of their first drive. The first Atlanta possession chewed up 7:46 of the first quarter. Atlanta got on the board first with a Matt Bryant field goal shortly after. As the first quarter came to a close, the Falcons led in almost every major statistical category and looked to stay in control.
The Vikings had other plans, as they started the second quarter with the ball and scored quickly. Running back Latavius Murray broke off for a 30-yard run to put the Vikings at the goal line and quarterback Case Keenum threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Jerick McKinnon just a few plays later. After another Matt Bryant field goal for Atlanta in the second quarter, it was visible what direction this game was heading. Both teams were set on defensively limiting each other’s options. At the end of the first half, Minnesota led the Vikings by a score of 7-6.
In the second half, the Falcons started to slow up. Minnesota, on the other hand, was starting to pick it up offensively and blew right past their opponent. Keenum threw for 100% completion in the entire third quarter, going 6-6, which led tight end, Kyle Rudolph, to score the second touchdown entering the 4th quarter and it proved to be the game-winner. Keenum played exceptionally well for the Vikings, going 25-30 for 227 yards and two touchdown throws, solidifying his status as the current starter. Keenum was under pressure for a good amount of time Sunday but still connected with his targets to extend the drive. Adam Thielen led the receiving corps with four catches for 51 yards. Behind him was Rudolph, who finished the matchup with four catches 36 yards and a score. Latavius Murray has been a great replacement for injured rookie phenom Dalvin Cook, and finished today with 76 yards on 16 rushes to go with three catches for 21 yards. Backup running back Jerick McKinnon also contributed, as he scored the first touchdown of the day.
Matt Ryan finished 17-30 for 173 yards, and no touchdowns. The return of RB Devonta Freeman after being out two games was very beneficial for the offense, but not enough. Freeman finished the game with 12 carries and 74 rushing yards after clearing concussion protocol earlier in the week. At the end of the first half, RB Tevin Coleman was Ryan’s leading receiver. Coleman finished the game with 22 yards on eight rushes and 3 receptions for 27 yards. Leading the receiving core for the whole game was Mohamed Sanu, grabbing three catches for 43 yards.
Julio Jones had one lone catch the entire first half for 13 yards, and was pretty much silent the rest of the day unable to repeat the movement from his explosive 253 yard game last week. He finished with only 2 receptions for 24 yards.
“It’s just one of those things. They did a good job of kind of shutting all of us down. We didn’t play very well. We didn’t play very well on offense as a unit, but I give credit to them. They made plays today,” Ryan said about what the Vikings did to contain Jones.
After this disappointing loss, the Falcons turn around and play on a short week. This Thursday, they return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium and take on their division foe New Orleans Saints. New Orleans comes in with a high octane offense, and an improved defense compared to recent years.
Having another tough matchup against Marshon Lattimore, the Saints’ rookie sensation at cornerback, Jones says, “it’s just the next game. We can go ahead and get this taste out of our mouths, but they were just the better team today. We just have to get back into rhythm. Like I said today, we were just missing offensively. Defensively, they did a great job. We’re all together now, don’t get me wrong. The Atlanta Falcons play for one another, but from our standpoint we’re way better than nine points, and we have to get it fixed.”
The Minnesota Vikings (10-2) will travel to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers next Sunday at 1:00PM ET. The Falcons (7-5) and Saints face off on Thursday Night Football at 8:30PM ET this week.