Numbers Check: The Atlanta Nightmare
Atlanta was terrible through five weeks, so of course they went into the U.S. Bank Stadium and absolutely dominated the Vikings on both sides of the ball. From the very first play, everything went Atlanta’s way, and Minnesota’s season is virtually over now after falling to 1-5.
Most of the damage was done in the first half, on the way to a disgusting 20-0 halftime score in favor of the Falcons. For those of you that turned this game off about 15 minutes in, here’s a look at a few of the numbers that led to the latest dismantling of the Vikings.
A week after facing one of the best rush defenses in the NFL and rushing 12 times for 80 yards in the fourth quarter alone, Mike Zimmer inexplicably ran Alexander Mattison just eight times in the entire first half this week.
For a team that has made a point of establishing the running game the past few weeks, averaging 38 carries per game over the past three games and never dipping below 31, this makes absolutely no sense. The Vikings have kept these games close by keeping their defense off the field, and now this week Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Todd Gurley torched the defense.
I know the biggest statistic that Vikings fans will remember from this game is Cousins’ three first half interceptions, but this three stands for third down. Throughout the season, the Vikings have average at stopping teams on third down. Opposing teams have converted at a rate of 39.7%.
In just the first half alone, the Falcons converted five of eight third down attempts. On one of the failed attempts they converted the fourth down, and on another they kicked a field goal. On the other side, the Vikings converted zero of their four third down attempts.
The Vikings didn’t get into the red zone very much in the first half, but they did have one red zone drive after a Falcons turnover. The score was 10-0 at this point, and a touchdown would have truly turned the momentum toward the Vikings.
This is where you want to get the ball into the hands of your best player. With Dalvin Cook out, that player became Adam Thielen. Going into week six, Adam Thielen had seven red zone targets. He’d caught all seven of them for 70 yards and five touchdowns, which both lead the entire NFL.
You’d think that the game plan would be to get him at least a target or two, given Mattison’s struggles on the goal line. Nope. After an 18-yard completion to Justin Jefferson to get the ball down to the two yard line, Mattison was stuffed twice, Cousins threw a ball that went through the hands of Irv Smith Jr., and Mike Boone was stuffed one more time after Kyle Rudolph completely missed his blocking assignment.
This was Minnesota’s only red zone trip of the first half, and they ended it without drawing a single play for their best player.