Falcons Name Starting QB For Vikings Clash

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The Minnesota Vikings head to Atlanta to meet the Falcons on Sunday. It will be the first matchup of the two franchises since 2020 and also the first one without Matt Ryan under center since 2007, when Joey Harrington started. Jaren Hall will throw passes for the Vikings, at least until Joshua Dobbs gets up to speed with the offense or Nick Mullens returns from IR.

Falcons Name Starting QB For Vikings Clash

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Tennessee Titans linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (2) pressures Atlanta Falcons quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) during the fourth quarter of their game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023.

Arthur Smith, head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, stepped in front of the media on Wednesday morning and announced that Taylor Heinicke would start on Sunday instead of sophomore Desmond Ridder. He also emphasized that Heinicke is the best option for this week. It sounds like this is a week-to-week thing going forward.

In last week’s loss against the Titans, Ridder was evaluated for a concussion, and Heinicke replaced him, throwing for 175 yards and 1 touchdown.

Minnesota’s up-and-coming defense will meet Heinicke, a former Vikings quarterback. He came into the league as an undrafted rookie in 2015 out of Old Dominion and signed with the Vikings. The rookie made the team as the third-string quarterback behind Teddy Bridgewater and Shaun Hill. His gutsy performances in the preseason made him a fan favorite. An off-field incident was the reason for a stint on IR before the 2016 season began, without that, he might have been a candidate to start after Bridgewater’s knee injury.

He didn’t throw a pass for the Vikings in an NFL game and moved on in 2017, signing with New England’s practice squad and later the Houston Texans, where he attempted just one pass before suffering a concussion.

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His bad luck would end in 2018 when he joined the Carolina Panthers and started a game in place of the injured Cam Newton, appearing in a total of six contests. Failing to make an NFL team in 2019, Heinicke joined the XFL but didn’t see the field. During the COVID season in 2020, Heinicke joined the Washington Commanders, where he had his unusual late-career breakout.

Because Alex Smith was ruled out with an injury, the former Viking started a playoff game against the eventual Super Bowl champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he made life hard for them with two touchdowns in the 31-23 loss.

He was a restricted free agent and returned to Washington. In Week 1, Ryan Fitzpatrick suffered an injury, and Heinicke started 15 games in 2021 and nine in 2022, throwing for a total of 32 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.

The Vikings 2022 Defense by the Numbers: After Week 9
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Throughout his career, Heinicke has managed to throw passes for four different franchises, recording 35 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. He is known as a gunslinger, someone who can make plays but also turns the ball over frequently with mind-boggling mistakes.

Benched starter Ridder struggled throughout the season, missing his star playmakers too often. The change at quarterback might be just what tight end Kyle Pitts and wideout Drake London needed to have big games against the Vikings.

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Regardless of the opposing quarterback, defensive coordinator Brian Flores will send a lot of blitzes, trying to put pressure on Heinicke. That formula has worked in recent weeks. The Vikings have the seventh-best defense, according to EPA/Play, since Week 4, although they faced Patrick Mahomes and his Chiefs and Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers in that span. No opponent managed to score more than 17 points in three straight games.

Not many expected Hall and Heinicke to meet in Week 9. Neither fan base really knows what to expect, but it will be a huge chance for both passers. Both teams are 4-4 and can position themselves in a good spot for a playoff run with a victory.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt