The Minnesota Vikings may have finally gotten their point across today: they are a force to be reckoned with in the NFC. The Vikings went into Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium and defeated the defending-NFC Champion Falcons, 14-9, further distancing themselves in the race for a first-round bye.
Case Keenum played a conservative but clean game, going 25 of 30 for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Keenum spread the ball around to nine different players with receiver Adam Thielen leading the way with four catches for 51 yards. Stefon Diggs only had two catches for 32 yards, while Kyle Rudolph had four for 36 yards and a touchdown. Latavius Murray led all rushers with 76 yards on 16 carries as Minnesota totaled 105 yards on the ground.
The Viking defense dominated a top-tier offense for the second time in three games. They held the Falcon offense to just three field goals a short two weeks after holding the Rams to one touchdown in Week 11. Despite not recording a sack, the Vikings’ defensive front kept Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan off balance much of the day; he went just 16 of 29 for 173 yards. Xavier Rhodes won his head-to-head matchup with Falcons’ star receiver Julio Jones, holding him to just two catches for 24 yards. Led by Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Harrison Smith, the Vikings secondary managed to limit Atlanta’s pass catchers all across the board. Despite Minnesota giving up 104 yards on the ground, they were flawless in keeping the Falcons out of the red zone, forcing them to settle for field goals.
How about six MVPs today? The Minnesota secondary was superb. From Smith and Rhodes all the way to Mackenzie Alexander, the Vikings’ defensive backs made life miserable for both Matt Ryan and his pass catchers. Each member of this group made at least one critical play that helped to shape this game. Today, they showed why they are in the argument for the best secondary in the NFL.
This game was pretty solid all the way around. Picking on any one player or group would be nitpicking today. For this writer, there was not much that stood out as too glaring other than some of the offensive play calling.
Play of the Game
Matt Bryant’s missed field goal ultimately sapped whatever energy that Atlanta had been building. The Falcons would have been within two points had that kick not veered wide left. As it turned out, it would be Atlanta’s final possession. The Vikings would run out the final 4:58 to seal their eighth-straight victory.
The Vikings will finish out their three-game road trip as they head to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers. The Vikings won this matchup a year ago by the score of 22-10. They got after quarterback Cam Newton in that one, sacking him eight times. This could be the final game for Minnesota against a potential challenger for their current seeding in the playoff picture. A win next weekend would give the Vikings a season sweep and tiebreakers over all four NFC South teams and virtually lock in a top-two seed. At 10-2 with four weeks to play, the Vikings can focus more on playoff positioning as opposed to simply trying to get into the dance.
– Clayton R. Brooks II writes for Full Press Coverage and covers the Minnesota Vikings. Like and follow @ClaytonRBrooks2. Like and follow @fpc_vikings on and Twitter and Full Press Vikings on Facebook.