Smith leads Falcons to playoff spot

APThe Falcons were able to clinch a playoff spot with a hard-fought road win over the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 24-17. The Falcons did not play an exceptionally good game, but were able to capitalize on four Viking turnovers. Mike Smith and the Falcons now move to a stunning 10-5 record.

Matt Ryan led the team, completing 13 of 24 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. Ryan also scrambled for 4 yards, fumbling into the endzone which was recovered by Justin Blalock. Michael Turner had 19 carries for 70 yards and a score on the ground. Michael Jenkins led receivers with 4 catches for 61 yards. Roddy White had 3 catches for 24 yards. Jerious Norwood had 2 catches for 11 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons offense totaled only 222 yards, their lowest output of the entire season, but were able to produce 10 points off Vikings turnovers.

Defensively, the Falcons had difficulty slowing the Vikings offense which gained 350 total yards and converted all 4 third down attempts in the first half. It was really only slowed by the Vikings own errors as they fumbled the ball 7 times, losing it four times. Three of the Fumbles were forced by Falcon defenders. Lawyer Milloy, Coy Wire, and Keith Brooking led the team each with 7 tackles. Milloy also forced a fumble. John Abraham (4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble), Jonathan Babineaux (1 tackle), Michael Boley (4 tackles, 1 fumble recovery), Erik Coleman (6 tackles), Chauncey Davis (1 tackle, 1 sack, 2 fumble recoveries), Domonique Foxworth (5 tackles), Chris Houston (3 tackles, 1 fumble recovery), Chevis Jackson (2 tackles), Jason Jefferson (2 tackles), Curtis Lofton (5 tackles), and Kindal Moorehead (5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble) all had noteworthy games.

Jason Elam connected on his lone field goal attempt of 22 yards. Michael Koenen had 6 punts for an average of 42.2 yards with 2 inside the 20-yard line. Harry Douglas had 1 punt return for 4 yards, while Jerious Norwood averaged 26.7 yards on 3 kickoff returns. Boley’s fumble recovery came off a muffed punt by Bernard Berrian.

Next week the Falcons return home for the season finale against the St. Louis Rams. The Falcons lost their last matchup with the Rams in a 28-16 loss last season. But had won their previous two, including a playoff victory in 2004. Prior to that the Falcons had lost 7 straight to the Rams going back their shared days in the NFC West. The Falcons are 6-1 at home while the Rams are 1-6 on the road this year.

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Aaron Freeman
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