We knew this would be a tough game. I don’t think we properly understood just how tough it would be for the offense, the side of the ball which has been so stellar as the Falcons have revived their season in recent weeks.
The Vikings absolutely shut down Atlanta on offense after the Falcons came close on a couple of drives early in the game, and the penalties that marred those early drives are especially haunting now. The defense, meanwhile, mixed some stellar play, especially consider their missing cornerbacks, with a couple of extremely costly scoring drives where they couldn’t seem to slow Minnesota down at all. That extended to the end of the game, when the Falcons did not have the wherewithal to put the brakes on Minnesota, and they were able to kneel the game away.
The Falcons can still easily make the playoffs if they can win at least three of their final four games, and preferably all four, since they’re all in divison. This loss means they really can’t afford many others if they’re going to hang in, however, and it proves that they just can’t hang with a truly elite defense. It was an expected loss, but still a bit of a discouraging one. We just didn’t see enough from Atlanta today against their toughest opponent of the year to believe they’re going to be able to make a deep run, much less beat Minnesota if they get lucky enough to face them again.
Here’s the full breakdown.
The Vikings got a beautiful, shifty first down gain from Stefon Diggs to start things off, but then went three and out. Robert Alford was able to get his hands on the ball on a short third pass, and Minnesota punted early.
Julio Jones was able to get open on first down but couldn’t come down with the pass, and then Devonta Freeman hit a wall. Thankfully, the Vikings picked up a penalty on third down and the Falcons kept the drive alive. Then they got a 16 yard gain from Levine Toilolo for another first down. A penalty put them back on their heels to start the next series, but they got to 3rd and 8 from 1st and 20 and picked up a brilliant run from Devonta Freeman...that was wiped out by a holding call on Alex Mack. They came to 4th and 2 and were able to convert thanks to Tevin Coleman picking up extra yards on a short pass. The next play was yet another nice run with a penalty, and the Falcons wound up backed all the way to 3rd and 17. Devonta Freeman got a nice run to bring it to 4th and 6 and right in Matt Bryant’s wheelhouse, and he nailed the field goal.
Falcons 3 - Vikings 0
The Vikings looked to get things moving post-Atlanta scoring drive, and they didn’t waste much time in getting things going. They found tons of success with short passes to fullbacks and running backs, but got jammed up near the 40 yard line when Case Keenum missed on a couple of passes and Grady Jarrett killed Keenum just as he let go of the ball on third down. Punt.
The Falcons started from their own two yard line, and got a penalty on their very first play. It was declined, but Atlanta ran twice without much success and then Mohamed Sanu couldn’t corral a slightly high throw from Matt Ryan, and Atlanta had to punt.
The Vikings got their backs heavily involved on their subsequent drive, and with major success. Latavius Murray was particularly effective, making nice cuts and running with power to get the Vikings down inside Atlanta’s five yard line. They were able to complete a short pass to Jerrick McKinnon on a nicely set up pick play.
Falcons 3 - Vikings 7
Atlanta’s drive started beautifully, featuring passes to Julio Jones, Marvin Hall, and Mohamed Sanu, plus a nice run by Devonta Freeman. Then they started to run into trouble, winding up with 3rd and 13 after a Hooper false start, Ryan missed a rainbow to Devonta Freeman and nearly got sacked. They wound up short of the first down on a Hooper catch, and Matt Bryant was called upon again to hit a short field goal. He hit it, of course.
Falcons 6 - Vikings 7
The Vikings could have built on that lead, but instead they ran into immediate trouble. Keenum couldn’t hit Thielen deep, the Vikings got a small gain, and then a neutral zone infraction by Takk McKinley was entirely wiped out and then some by a Takk sack of Keenum on third down. It was punt time, and Atlanta started from their own 32.
They got 17 quick yards on three runs by Tevin Coleman, Taylor Gabriel, and Coleman again. Then Matt Ryan missed Julio Jones deep on the sideline. On 3rd and 4, Matt Ryan tried to make a quick pass that was knocked away by Minnesota, and the Falcons had to punt.
The Vikings didn’t have much time or many timeouts to work with, but they were able to get out from their own ten yard line and make a drive of it. It helped that the Falcons got pressure but couldn’t quite close out plays with sacksWith 12 seconds left and zero timeouts left, they were right at midfield, but Keenum’s next pass took too long to develop and time ran out before they could try the field goal.
The Falcons came out with the ball, and got a quick nine yard gain from Levine Toilolo, followed by a beautiful Devonta Freeman run and holding penalty on Minnesota that got them to midfield. A leaping grab by Mohamed Sanu got them another first down, but then they stalled out, with the play finishing on a frustratingly low throw by Matt Ryan that Mohamed Sanu couldn’t quite scoop up. Matt Bryant, of course, hit the field goal to give Atlanta the lead.
Falcons 9 - Vikings 7
The Falcons found some success early, but weren’t able to sustain it. After Matt Ryan couldn’t connect with Julio and then Gabriel deep, they needed to punt. A penalty backed Matt Bosher up ten yards, but he still managed to punt it to the Minnesota 10 yard line.
Minnesota’s next drive was intensely frustrating. They were able to connect on a lot of short passes and pick up extra yardage, and Latavius Murray gouged the run defense. Finally, inside the red zone, the Vikings hit a leaping Kyle Rudolph in the end zone for a touchdown to give them back the lead to start the fourth quarter.
Falcons 9 - Vikings 14
Atlanta’s next drive was a major disappointment. Tevin Coleman almost fumbled his carry away, Matt Ryan was hit on an incomplete pass, and then Ryan tried to scramble his way out of a collapsing pocket and couldn’t go far. Punt.
Atlanta took advantage of a costly 15 yard penalty on the Vikings (chop block) to make a real stand, holding the Vikings to six yards on three plays after the call and forcing a punt.
The Falcons pulled together what looked like a productive drive initially, including first downs via Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones. It fizzled out yet again when the Falcons couldn’t get the first on a Taylor Gabriel pass on third down, and Matt Bryant improbably missed a field goal. The Falcons now had 5 minutes left in the game, were down five, and needed yet another stop.
They didn’t get it. The Vikings got deep into Atlanta territory and then kneeled three times to end it. Ballgame.