The Atlanta Falcons dropped their fourth game in a row with a disappointing 20-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The Falcons offense once again looked lackluster with a trio of turnovers as their record falls to 6-5 for the season.
Quarterback Matt Ryan had another disappointing performance with a pair of interceptions on his way to finish the day completing 22 of 31 passes for 230 yards with a touchdown.
With starter Devonta Freeman out of the lineup, rookie running back Tevin Coleman filled his shoes and rushed for 110 yards on 18 carries. However his game was blighted by a fumble after a 46-yard run. Terron Ward added seven yards on five carries.
Roddy White led receivers with six receptions for 60 yards. Jacob Tamme (five catches, 69 yards) and Julio Jones (five catches, 56 yards) also made contributions in the passing game. Nick Williams nabbed the Falcons lone touchdown which came at the end of the game when the outcome was already decided. He finished the game with three catches for 16 yards.
Kicker Shayne Graham hit the Falcons lone field goal attempt of 31 yards. Punter Matt Bosher punted only twice for an average of 49 yards. Eric Weems returned his lone kickoff for 44 yards and also had 17 yards on a pair of punt returns.
Offensively, the Falcons finished the game with 329 total yards and converted five of 11 third-down attempts (45 percent). Despite the trio of turnovers, the Vikings were only able to score three points off them, but those mistakes definitely cost the Falcons points as all three came in Vikings territory in field goal range.
Defensively the Falcons gave up 365 total yards to the Vikings offense and allowed a season-high 191 yards on the ground. The Vikings were able to convert seven of 12 third-down attempts (58 percent). The Vikings turned the ball over once on an interception, which the Falcons capitalized on with three points of their own.
Linebacker Phillip Wheeler led the team with 11 tackles, replacing an injured Justin Durant early in the game. Ricardo Allen (six tackles, one interception), Jonathan Babineaux (four tackles), Kroy Biermann (seven tackles), Tyson Jackson (four tackles), William Moore (seven tackles), O’Brien Schofield (three tackles, two quarterback hits), Paul Soliai (three tackles, one tackle for loss), Desmond Trufant (six tackles) and Paul Worrilow (eight tackles) had notable games.
The Falcons won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. The Vikings started out their opening series by feeding All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, who ripped off an 11-yard run on his first carry of the game. But Soliai burst through the line on the second play from scrimmage and dropped Peterson for a one-yard loss. Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went to the air on the next two downs, connecting with wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who was dragged down by Desmond Trufant both times to force a quick Vikings punt.
The Falcons tried to feed their running back with Tevin Coleman getting carries on all three plays to start their opening series. His first resulted in a seven-yard gain up the middle, but Coleman was dropped for one-yard gains on his next two carries, getting stuffed on a 3rd-and-2, leading to a Falcons punt after a three-and-out.
Biermann dragged down Peterson on first down after a three-yard gain to start the next drive. Then Bridgewater hit Peterson on a screen pass, who ripped ff and 18-yard gain. Two plays later, the Vikings had another first down after Bridgewater hit fullback Zach Line on an eight-yard throw in the flat to get the ball into Falcons territory. Bridgewater then connected with tight end Kyle Rudolph for a 12-yard gain to push deeper in Falcons territory. Three plays later on 3rd-and-8, Diggs beat cornerback Jalen Collins for a 16-yard gain to give the Vikings a first down. But the gain was mostly wiped out by a 15-yard personal foul penalty against Diggs for taunting after the play. Bridgewater connected again with Rudolph two plays later for a 13-yard gain after the tight end shook a Falcons defender. Two plays later, Peterson dropped a wide open check down from Bridgewater, which set up a 3rd-and-9 from the Falcons 16-yard line. Bridgewater threw to wide receiver Mike Wallace, who couldn’t reel in the pass thanks to the pass interference flag called on Trufant. That gave the Vikings a new set of downs with 1st-and-goal from the one-yard line. Peterson was able to score on the very next play, fighting his way through traffic off the right side. The Vikings took a 7-0 lead after a 13-play, 78-yard scoring drive that lasted six-and-a-half minutes, leaving 3:42 left on the first-quarter clock.
Coleman ripped off a long run on the run to the outside, but upon trying to juke a Vikings defender downfield, he was stripped from behind by Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. Safety Antone Exum scooped up the loose ball and despite the 46-yard gain, the Vikings took over at their 21-yard line.
Peterson gained 10 yards on the opening play of the ensuing drive, which was followed by a three-yard gain. Bridgewater then hit tight end Rhett Ellison on the next play, who fought several Falcons defenders for a 23-yard gain to put the ball into Falcons territory. The Vikings subbed in running back Jerick McKinnon, who ripped off a pair of runs combining for 19 yards to close out the first quarter. The Vikings started the second quarter at the Falcons 24-yard line, but Ra’Shede Hageman was able to bottle up McKinnon for a two-yard gain. On 2nd-and-8, Bridgewater took a deep shot to Rudolph in the end zone, but Allen made an athletic leap to snatch the interception in the end zone. The Falcons took over at their 20-yard line to start the ensuing series.
After a false start from Falcons right guard Chris Chester backed the team up five yards, the team dialed up a play-action pass. But no receiver got open and Ryan checked it down to White for a loss of one-yard thanks to a good open field tackle by Barr. Ryan spun out of pressure on second down and was able to find an open Justin Hardy along the sideline for an 11-yard gain. The Falcons converted their first third down of the game after Ryan connected with Tamme on a slant for 12 yards. Two plays later, Coleman had a strong run up the middle for eight yards to set up a 3rd-and-2. Ryan hit Jones for the first time in the game on a seven-yard completion to convert and get the ball into Vikings territory. On Jones next grab two plays later, he was able to muscle past Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes for an 11-yard gain and another first down. The Falcons were gifted two more first downs on their next three plays thanks to Vikings penalties. The first was an illegal use of hands penalty on defensive tackle Tom Johnson, followed by a defensive holding call against cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. The Falcons now found themselves at the Vikings 27-yard line. Ryan got the team another first down after a 10-yard connection to Hardy. Ward then ran five yards on a run to the right side, but the gain was wiped out by an unnecessary roughness penalty on the running back when he kicked Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks along the sideline. That pushed the Falcons back to the 24-yard line with a 2nd-and-20. Nick Williams gained 11 of those yards back on an out pattern on the next down, but on 3rd-and-9, cornerback Terence Newman delivered a nice hit to Ward to prevent the reception. The Falcons settled for a field goal and Graham connected on a 31-yard kick to put the team on the board, down 7-3 to the Vikings with 6:13 left in the first half.
Wheeler was able to stuff Peterson on first down for a gain of zero yards. Trufant broke up a throw to Wallace on second down, but the Vikings were gifted a first down after fellow cornerback Robert Alford was flagged for defensive holding. Peterson then gained a combined 15 yards on his next two carries. On 2nd-and-5, Jackson was able to get pressure to force Bridgewater to throw the ball away. On third down, pressure once again got to Bridgewater to force him to throw it away. Brooks Reed was able to flush the quarterback from the pocket with Babineaux and Schofield also giving chase. The Vikings punted it back to the Falcons with under four minutes remaining in the second quarter.
The Flacons took over at their 15-yard line. Ryan threw behind Jones on a rollout, which was broken up by safety Robert Blanton. After a four-yard run by Coleman, Ryan hit White for a nine-yard gain to convert on 3rd-and-6. Ryan dialed up a deep shot to Hardy over the middle, but the rookie receiver couldn’t make the leaping grab. However an illegal contact penalty on Newman gave the Falcons a fresh set of downs at their 33-yard line. Coleman gained five yards on a run to the left edge just as the two-minute warning hit. Ryan then overthrew White on a slant down the seam, leading to another third down. White converted again with a 12-yard grab over the middle to get the ball to midfield. After a seven-yard completion to Tamme, Ryan threw behind Williams on a crossing pattern and Munnerlyn was able to step in front of the throw for an easy interception.
The Vikings took over at the 25-yard line with 1:24 left on the second-quarter clock. After a five-yard run by McKinnon, Vic Beasley was able to deflect a Bridgewater pass to set up a 3rd-and-5. But McKinnon was able to convert on a seven-yard gain on a draw play. Bridgewater was able to avoid a sack from Beasley and hit Rudolph to salvage the potential loss for a gain of no yards. Bridgewater was able to connect two more times with Rudolph on his next three passes for a combined 16 yards to get the ball deeper into Falcons territory in the final minute of the half. With just six seconds left on the clock, the Vikings attempted a 51-yard field goal, but kicker Blair Walsh pushed it wide left.
The Falcons knelt on the ball and settled to go into halftime down 7-3.
To start the second half, Coleman gained one yard on the opening play. But Ryan then hit Jones on a deep cross over the middle with the receiver making a nice diving grab for 19 yards. Two plays later, the Falcons dialed up a rollout and Ryan hit White for a 20-yard gain on another crossing pattern to get the ball into Vikings territory. After another rollout, Ryan tried to hit Levine Toilolo in the flat, but he was decked by Blanton, which drew a pass interference flag and gave the Falcons a new set of downs and three yards. Ward then carried the ball for six yards before bowing to Coleman on the next four downs. Coleman’s second run was a three-yard gain on 3rd-and-1. Two plays later, a 16-yard run by Coleman got the Falcons down to the one-yard line. Coleman was stuffed on his fifth consecutive carry up the middle at the goal line. On the next play, he tok a toss to the left side and was able to score a one-yard touchdown. However the play was nullified by a clipping penalty on tight end Tony Moeaki for trying to cut linebacker Chad Greenway on the backside block. That pushed the Falcons back to the Vikings 15-yard line. Another illegal use of hands penalty on Johnson got the Falcons a first down and five yards back. On first down, Coleman dropped an easy screen pass from Ryan. That was followed by Exum blowing up a run to Ward for a loss of four yards. On 3rd-and-goal from the 14-yard line, Ryan was able to escape the pocket to avoid pressure and tried to throw it to an open Tamme in the back of the end zone. But the quarterback under threw the pass and Newman stepped in front for an easy interception.
The Vikings took over at the 20-yard line with 7:59 left in the third quarter. On the second play from scrimmage, Collins ran into Wallace on a deep throw, drawing the pass interference call and giving the Vikings 24 yards to get close to midfield. Peterson then went to work, breaking several tackles on his next five carries, combining for a total of 36 yards before the Falcons stuffed him for no gain on his sixth consecutive carry at their 19-yard line. Once the Vikings went away from the running back on their next two plays, the Falcons defense finally got a stop. The Vikings settled for a 29-yard field goal from Walsh to push their lead to 10-3 with 1:49 left on the third-quarter clock.
Ryan connected with a heavily covered Jones on a cross for 14 yards to start the next series. Ryan’s next pass on a rollout to White was overthrown, bringing up a 3rd-and-7 on the final play of the third quarter. Ryan was sacked by defensive end Everson Griffen for a loss of seven yards and the Falcons punted to start the fourth quarter after a four-and-out.
Peterson ripped off a 16-yard run on the second play of the ensuing Vikings series before being stuffed for one yard on his next carry. Two plays later, the Vikings were successful in converting on 3rd-and-4 after wideout Jarius Wright beat Collins on a crossing pattern. The Vikings continued to turn to Peterson, handing the ball off to him on three of their next four plays. The running back paid things off with a combined 14 yards on those three plays, pushing the ball deeper into Falcons territory. Then Peterson shook Worrilow on a short throw over the middle for an 11-yard gain. Two plays later, Bridgewater was flushed out of the pocket by pressure and Line dropped his pass. That set up a 3rd-and-10 from the Falcons 24-yard line, which was further complicated by a false start penalty on Vikings right tackle T.J. Clemmings. Asiata caught a short throw in the flat and his eight-yard gain was well shy of the sticks. The Vikings once again settled for another field goal with Walsh connecting on a 39-yard kick. The Vikings were now up 13-3 with 6:24 left in the fourth quarter.
The Falcons got favorable field position to start their next drive thanks to a 44-yard kickoff return by Weems. Coleman was able to get behind Barr on a wheel route on first down, but bobbled the catch, wiping off a potentially big play. Jones gained five yards on a shallow cross to set up a 3rd-and-5. Ryan hit Williams for a diving grab, but he was stopped a yard shy of the sticks, forcing the Falcons to go for it on 4th-and-1. The Falcons dialed up a quick throw with an empty backfield, but Barr came virtually unblocked on the blitz for the sack. He stripped Ryan on the hit, but Falcons right tackle Ryan Schraeder was able to fall on the loose ball. It didn’t matter either way, as the Vikings took over at the Falcons 40-yard line with 4:34 left in the game.
The Vikings proceeded to milk clock with runs to Peterson, who gained four and one yards, respectively, on his first two runs, causing the Falcons to burn their final two timeouts. Then Peterson was able to sprint past Wheeler on a run to the left and went virtually untouched for a 35-yard touchdown run, putting the game out of reach with the Vikings now sporting a 20-3 lead with 4:15 left in the game.
The Falcons went into their no-huddle offense with Ryan connecting with either White or Tamme on his first five drop backs. White snagged a pair of receptions for a combined 20 yards while Tamme had three catches over the middle for 50 yards, helping put the Falcons in the red zone for the third time on Sunday. Pressure then flushed Ryan out of the pocket and he was able to hit Ward for an eight-yard gain to put the ball at the two-yard line just before the two-minute warning hit. On 3rd-and-1 after the two-minute warning, Ward was stuffed for a loss of one-yard, setting up a 4th-and-goal from the two-yard line. Ryan tried to hit Tamme in the back of the end zone, but the pass was broken up. However Exum was called for defensive holding, giving the Falcons a new set of downs. Jones lined up in the backfield on the next play, and Ryan faked a pitch to him, only to sprint out and hit Williams for the one-yard score to get the Falcons first touchdown on the scoreboard with 88 seconds left in the game.
The Falcons attempted an onside kick, but it was recovered by wide receiver Adam Thielen. With no remaining Falcons timeouts, the Vikings were content to go into victory formation on their final three plays from scrimmage and wound out the remainder of the clock to get the win.
The Falcons will look to break their four-game slide with a win next week on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6). The Falcons began this losing streak with a Week Eight loss to the Bucs in overtime by a score of 23-20. The Falcons won their last road game against the Bucs, beating them 27-17 in 2014. But they’ve split their last four road games in Tampa, dating back to 2011. The Falcons are 3-2 on the road this year, and thus far are 0-1 under Dan Quinn when playing on the road immediately following a loss at home. The Bucs are coming off a road loss to the Indianapolis Colts and are 0-5 all-time under second-year head coach Lovie Smith in home games immediately following road losses.