The Atlanta Falcons are back in NFC play this weekend, taking on a familiar foe and one of their partners in perpetual suffering in the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota currently owns a 20-12 lead in the all time series.
The Falcons were Minnesota’s bogey team in their first two years of existence. The Vikings were one of three wins for the Birds in 1966 and their only win of the season in a miserable 1-12 1967 campaign. After that, however, Minnesota became a dominant force in the NFL with the arrival of the Purple People Eaters in 1968.
In that era, Minnesota went 6-2 against the Falcons, holding their offense to 10 points or fewer in seven out of those eight matchups. Atlanta got a couple of one point wins back in 1981 and 1985, but success against the Vikings in the 1980s and 1990s was few and far between.
The most important matchup in this series’ history went Atlanta’s way, however, when they knocked off an utterly dominant 15-1 Vikes team at the Metrodome in the NFC Championship Game. Gary Anderson’s miss to put the game away still haunts the dreams of many a Vikings fan, while Atlanta’s Morten Andersen split the uprights in overtime to stamp a ticket to the Super Bowl.
After some back and forth in the 2000s, the Vikings won four straight between 2014-2019 before Atlanta finally got one back in 2020.
The Falcons had started the 2020 season with five consecutive defeats, which finally did Dan Quinn in and resulted in his firing. When the Falcons traveled to Minnesota, they did so with Raheem Morris at the helm as interim head coach.
The new head coach bounce looked to be very real for the Falcons, as they scored a touchdown and a field goal in both the first quarter and the second to take a resounding 20-0 lead into the half. A Younghoe Koo field goal on the opening drive of the second half saw the Birds get out to a 23-0 lead before the Vikings finally scored.
Atlanta ended up leading 33-7 midway though the fourth quarter, with Minnesota making things look a bit better cosmetically with some garbage time scores. The Falcons got an absolutely vintage performance out of both Matt Ryan (371 passing yards and four touchdowns) and Julio Jones (137 receiving yards and two touchdowns).
Both the Falcons and Vikings were 1-5 after this game. Minnesota actually had a resurgence soon after and won five of their next six before floundering down the stretch and missing the playoffs at 7-9. Atlanta finished the season at 4-12 and Morris was not retained as head coach. The franchise instead opted to hire Arthur Smith that next offseason.