Vikings 14 Falcons 9, Minnesota Defense Shuts Down Jones for 8 Straight Wins
Minnesota Vikings 14, Atlanta Falcons 9
The Vikings did what they set out to do Sunday. Not only did Minnesota win the third-down battle, the defense made the Falcons offense one-dimensional, the secondary shut down Julio Jones and the Purple came away with their eighth straight victory at Atlanta.
Quarterback Case Keenum started slowly but again finished the game strong, completing all 13 pass attempts of the second half, including his last 15 passes of the game. Keenum went 25 of 30 (83.3%) for 227 yards with two touchdowns. He had a QBR of 57.3 and a passer rating of 120.4.
The Vikings offensive line gave up two sacks but paved the way for another positive showing by Minnesota’s offense.
Latavius Murray led the Vikings with 76 rushing yards on 16 carries (4.8 yard average). He also had three receptions for 21 yards. Murray ran with aggression and proved his ankle has fully healed from offseason surgery. Fellow back Jerick McKinnon ran for 24 yards on nine carries but was a larger focus of the passing game, catching five passes for 28 yards and a touchdown (he had the best TD celebration of the game).
Vikings wideout Adam Thielen led the team with 51 receiving yards on 4 receptions. This was the first game all season Thielen caught less than five passes. Stefon Diggs had 2 catches for 32 yards. Tight end Kyle Rudolph finished the day with four catches for 36 yards and a touchdown.
The Vikings defense had a terrific day. The unit held Matt Ryan to 16 of 29 passing (55%) for 173 yards. Ryan finished with a QBR of 42.8 and a passer rating of 72.9.
Xavier Rhodes, who shadowed Jones for most of the game, nearly shut down the star wideout entirely. The Falcons top receiver had only 2 catches for 24 yards. Mohamed Sanu led the Falcons in receiving yards with 43 on three receptions.
The Falcons offense did not score a touchdown. Atlanta’s kicker, Matt Bryant, made three of four field goals.
Devonta Freeman led the Falcons with 74 yards on 12 carries.
The Minnesota Vikings got off to a slow start. On the first drive Keenum connected with Stefon Diggs for a 13-yard gain. It was their only first down before punting.
Julio Jones let a Matt Ryan pass go right through his hands on the Falcons first drive. A pass interference call on Mackensie Alexander extended the drive. Tevin Coleman beat Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr on an early 4th-down attempt by Atlanta. The Falcons tried to use the speed of their running backs to exploit the Vikings linebackers Barr and Eric Kendricks. Later on the drive, center Alex Mack was called for holding which negated a big run by running back Devonta Freeman. Matt Bryant started the scoring with a 38-yard field goal with on the Falcons first drive of the game (5:24 remaining in the first quarter).
Falcons 3, Vikings 0
On the Vikings second drive of the game Case Keenum had tons of time to throw the ball. Unfortunately he missed seeing a wide open Adam Thielen and slightly misplaced a throw to Stefon Diggs that led to Diggs catching the ball out-of-bounds. He also made a poor decision throwing to a covered Kyle Rudolph.
The Falcons second drive started on their own 2-yard line thanks to a terrific punt by punter Ryan Quigley. Atlanta’s drive ended as a three-and-out after a drop by receiver Mohamed Sanu.
The Vikings got the running game going in the second quarter. Latavius Murray exploded for a run of 30 yards after earning consecutive first downs on third and short. On the drive Murray steamed over Atlanta linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. on a nice nine yard catch from Keenum. Running back Jerick McKinnon opened the scoring for the Vikings with a 2-yard catch from Keenum.
Vikings 7, Falcons 3
The Vikings defense struggled to pressure Ryan in the second quarter as he completed pass after pass downfield to set up another 36-yard field goal by Bryant.
Vikings 7, Falcons 6
The Falcons struggled with penalties early in the game. Multiple holding penalties, a false start, and a neutral zone infraction that put them in difficult positions.
Despite the penalties, a big third-down sack by Takkarisk McKinley on Vikings left tackle Riley Reiff ended a second quarter Vikings drive. It was the first sack given up by Reiff all season.
Mackensie Alexander made up for his early pass interference call with a nice third-down pass breakup late in the second quarter that led to a Falcons punt.
The Vikings struggled with clock management on their last drive of the second quarter as they were unable to gather points.
HALFTIME – VIKINGS 7, FALCONS 6
First Half Leaders
Passing yards: QB Keenum – 12 of 17 for 110 yards with 1 TD
Rushing yards: RB Murray – 6 carries for 45 yards
Receiving yards: WR Michael Floyd – 2 catches for 20 yards
3rd down efficiency: 2 of 5
Passing yards: QB Ryan – 11 of 18 for 114 yards
Rushing yards: RB Freeman – 6 carries for 35 yards
Receiving yards: RB Coleman – 3 catches for 27 yards
3rd down efficiency: 1 of 6
The Falcons got the ball to open the second half. Atlanta’s offense moved the ball consistently down the field through the air with the Vikings defense focused on stopping the run. A key third-down catch by Sanu was reversed (was ruled the ball hit the ground), leading to a 47-yard field goal, the third by Bryant.
Vikings 7, Falcons 9
The Vikings first drive of the second half was one to forget. After a holding penalty on Rashod Hill the Vikings were stuffed on a run on 1st and 20. Then Keenum was penalized for an illegal forward pass, resulting in a 3rd and 25. The Vikings did not convert the third down and punted.
The Falcons offense was again stifled on third down after a bomb to Taylor Gabriel was defended nicely by Trae Waynes.
Keenum had five straight completions on the Vikings second drive of the second half. One to Thielen, a screen pass to Murray and first down tosses to Diggs, Thielen and Jarius Wright. Murray earned a red zone first down after three straight rushes.
The Vikings scored on the first play of the fourth quarter with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Keenum to Rudolph.
Vikings 14, Falcons 9
The defense of the Vikings finally pressured Ryan on the next drive, leading to a quick three-and-out for Atlanta.
As the Vikings offense looked to be getting in a groove a chop block was called on offensive linemen Nick Easton and Reiff, leading to a Minnesota punt.
The Falcons gained momentum on their next drive, moving the ball both on the ground and through the air. They set up a 45-yard field goal for Bryant, who missed wide left. That miss essentially ended the game for Atlanta.
On the Vikings next drive Keenum completed passes to Rudolph and Thielen and relied on Murray’s rushing attack to run out the clock.
The Falcons defense, missing cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Brian Poole, could not stop Keenum in the second half as he completed 13 of 13 passes in the second half.
Final: Vikings 14, Falcons 9
Passing yards: QB Keenum – 25 of 30 for 227 yards with 2 TD’s
Rushing yards: RB Murray – 16 carries for 76 yards
Receiving yards: WR Thielen – 4 catches for 51 yards
3rd down efficiency: 6 of 12
Passing yards: QB Ryan – 16 of 29 for 173 yards
Rushing yards: RB Freeman – 12 carries for 74 yards
Receiving yards: WR Sanu – 3 catches for 43 yards
3rd down efficiency: 1 of 10
RT Mike Remmers (lower back) did not play.
TE David Morgan (concussion) was lost for the game after the Vikings first offensive series. He laid a huge block that sprung Diggs for extra yards but was hurt on the play. He is in the concussion protocol.
The (10-2) Vikings will travel to Carolina to take on the Panthers (8-3) Sunday at noon.