It’s not hyperbole to say a different Falcons team took the field on Sunday against the Vikings. They are indeed different, with a new coaching hierarchy in place to inspire some kind of optimism for the 2021 season.
And the play itself? It was Atlanta’s best game of the year as they took home their first win. Indeed, a different team. They played with urgency on both offense and defense, and legitimately seemed to be having fun for the first time all season.
Deion Jones sets the tone
The Falcons’ linebacker apparently got the message that interim head coach Raheem Morris conveyed during Atlanta’s wild week, taking advantage of a poor Kirk Cousins pass and securing an interception on Minnesota’s first play of the game. It would be the first of three picks in the first half for the Falcons.
A.J. Terrell’s breakout performance
Rookie cornerback A.J. Terrell has had a rocky season so far, which has included your traditional first-year stumbles and a non-traditional stop on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Sunday’s game against Minnesota was his best as a pro so far, however, as he flashed early and often — and tallied his first career interception, as well.
Terrell put together a top-shelf defensive drive on the Vikings’ second offensive possession, showcasing one textbook open field wrap-up tackle and then preventing a Minnesota first down with another tackle shortly thereafter.
He led the team in tackles with six, and tacked on a tackle for loss for good measure. Great stuff from the rook.
The scramble play touchdown
On 4th & 3 late in the third quarter and the Falcons up 23-7, Atlanta decided to go for it and it appeared the play was doomed from the start. The pass protection quickly broke down, and none of Matt Ryan’s targets were open downfield. Matt Ryan channeled some Russell Wilson energy from that point forward, escaping the collapsing pocket and buying time before he floated a pass to an open Julio Jones.
Jones took it from there, sprinting down the sideline for the 40-yard touchdown.
A 3rd & 7 run up the middle
It’s Dirk Koetter’s world and we’re just living in it.
Settle for a field goal. It’s Dirk’s world and we’re just living in it. With the Falcons already up 7-0 in the second quarter and driving, Dirk dialed up one of his patented 3rd & long runs right into the teeth of the defense. Brian Hill went absolutely nowhere, as you would predict with the play design and call, and the Falcons were forced to settle for a field goal.
They would obviously win the game in spite of the play, but these are the types of calls that leave points on the field and historically come back and bite the Falcons.
Second half defense
The Falcons’ defense was lights out in the first half, but allowed 23 points by the Vikings in the second. Kendall Sheffield was regularly picked on, including getting beat by Justin Jefferson for a long reception in 3rd quarter. The second half has been the Achilles heel for Atlanta all season long, and that trend did not abate in their win over Minnesota.