Well, that was a football game. That’s how it will go down in the official NFL record, but from the point of view of the Atlanta Falcons’ performance, it was more of an unmitigated disaster that just involved helmets and a football.
This stock market crash of a season opener started 2019 off on a sour note, with the Falcons never really looking impressive at any stretch against the Vikings. Lots of gripes and little to applaud in Atlanta’s loss to Minnesota.
Grady Jarrett’s big day
Grady Jarrett was the lone bright spot in the Vikings’ evisceration of the Falcons. He was the best player on the field for the entire game, consistently wreaking havoc on Minnesota’s interior line. He would finish his afternoon with five tackles, one sack, and a forced fumble, proving once again that his new contract was one of the most pivotal accomplishments of Atlanta’s offseason.
Jarrett is an absolute force on the defensive line, and these types of games have simply become the norm (and expectation) for the Falcons defender.
It was an inauspicious start to the new season, and a worrisome debut for the Ben Kotwica-led special teams unit. After an opening drive three-and-out that already included a sack of Matt Ryan, Matt Bosher and the punting unit came on to put the ball downfield. That objective was not accomplished, as Minnesota’s Eric Wilson blasted through the center of Atlanta’s line and blocked the punt, giving the Vikings the ball on the Falcons’ 21-yard line.
Kirk Cousins found Adam Thielen three plays later for a 23-yard touchdown. Brutal way to start a road game.
The Beasley Bailout
The Falcons picked up defensive end Vic Beasley’s $12.8 million fifth-year option early in the offseason, a move that confused a lot and was derided by many. He did little to silence his detractors with his performance against Minnesota, one that included quite possibly the worst play of his career.
In the second quarter with Atlanta down by 14, the Vikings dialed up a bootleg for quarterback Kirk Cousins. Beasley used his speed to get past Minnesota right tackle Brian O’Neill for a free shot at the sack.
He did not do that. He didn’t do anything close to that.
Beasley bit so hard on the ensuing pump fake you’d think Kirk Cousins was serving up brisket plates from Community Q. When he regained his senses and focus he still had a clean line to take Cousins down — at which point Beasley just kind of ... hugged him. It was dreadful, and somewhat a microcosm of the entire game: Awful execution throughout, and a failure to capitalize when an opportunity presented itself.
Containing Dalvin Cook
Forget stopping him — it was apparent early on that Dalvin Cook was going to have success running against the Falcons. But merely containing him and making the plays to limit damage seemed to be a reasonable task. Seemed, at least.
The Vikings running back got it going immediately after Matt Ryan’s ill-advised interception in the first quarter, bolting down the right side of the field to the Falcons’ 19-yard line for a 21-yard gain. He followed that up with a 19-yard touchdown on the next play, one that saw second-year cornerback Isaiah Oliver inexplicably engaged with Adam Thielen instead of attempting the tackle.
Isaiah Oliver engaging with Adam Thielen instead of trying to tackle Dalvin Cook is certainly a choice pic.twitter.com/5dizsSvonm— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) September 8, 2019
Cook would finish the day with 21 carries for 111 yards and two touchdowns.
Matt Ryan’s early interception
Quarterback Matt Ryan finished with a respectable enough line (33/46, 304 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT), but he had a bad case of happy feet early on in this game. Ryan did not appear very comfortable in the pocket from the start, and nowhere was that more evident than Atlanta’s second possession in the first quarter. Ryan found himself under duress and in an attempt to avoid the sack, tossed the football over the middle into triple coverage.
The Vikings would come down with it, and it would turn into a Minnesota touchdown four plays later.