December 3, 2017
Minnesota 14 at Atlanta 9
By: Allison Smith
Apparently we used up all of our good offense and points in last week’s win against Tampa Bay. At least that was a fun game. Now, with today’s loss to Minnesota, the Falcons are in quite the pickle. They must win out, and likely hope for some help to make the playoffs.
With Desmond Trufant and Brian Poole (late scratch) both out at Cornerback, Blidi Wreh-Wilson stepped in. Ricardo Allen moved to the nickel spot and Damontae Kazee took Allen’s spot at Free Safety.
The Minnesota Vikings take the opening possession of the game. With a quick first down pass to Stefan Diggs and Deion Jones on the stop. Then Brooks Reed and Grady Jarrett combine to stop a 1-yard run by Latavius Murray. Jerick McKinnon has a 6-yard run, then Case Keenum throws a pass to Diggs that is perfectly defended and knocked out by Robert Alford forcing an early punt. Andre Roberts fair catches at the 22 and the offense begins there.
Matt Ryan begins the Falcons offense with a pass to Julio Jones, unfortunately an overthrow of Jones. Then a hand off to Devonta Freeman goes into the line for no gain, as Jones lines up for the crack back block. The 3rd down pass to Mohamed Sanu falls incomplete, but the defender was all over Sanu and called for the PI. In the shot gun, Ryan immediately hands off to Tevin Coleman who is immediately stopped for a loss of 2. A pass to Austin Hooper gains 6 yards, then a quick snap leads to a 16-yard pass and first down to Levine Toilolo. With Taylor Gabriel in motion, Ryan fakes to Freeman, the passes up to the line of scrimmage where Gabriel makes the catch, but it is nullified by a Jake Matthews’ block in the back. Freeman knocks off 5 of the 20 needed yards. Near midfield, Hooper makes a catch on a low ball, stumbling, but holds his balance and holds on to the ball and behind a Jones block, gains 7 yards. Freeman has a big run behind great blocking by Sanu and Gabriel, but, it is nullified by a very uncharacteristic holding penalty on Alex Mack. Back to 3rd and 12 a pass to Coleman nearly gets the first down, but is stopped 2 yards short. Ben Garland comes in, along with an extra tight end. The Falcons 4th and 2 plan causes a Minnesota time out (note this as it will come in to play later in the half.) Out of the time out, Ryan has a 15-yard pass to Coleman, easily converting the first down. Again, Freeman, again holding penalty, this time on Garland who is it for Andy Levitre who just went out with a tricep injury. Garland’s “hold” was more of a perfect take down, but that is not how the referees marked it. Now, a 1st and 17 at the 31, Ryan fakes the run and overthrows Coleman in the end zone. The pocket collapses for a throw away ball. Suddenly it is 3rd and 17 and Ryan hands off to Freeman who gains 11 easy yards. Matt Bryant comes in for the 38-yard field goal. With just over 5 minutes to go in the first quarter, the Falcons lead by 3.
Keenum brings the Vikings out for their second drive of the game at the 25. They begin with a rush for 4 yards. The coverage downfield was tremendous, giving Vic Beasley time to apply great pressure and Keenum to have an out of bounds throw. Jones is called for a hold, moving the ball downfield and giving a free first down. A couple of successful quick passes have the Vikings across midfield. Reed is constantly in the backfield while Beasley is in and out of pass coverage. A long pass to Rudolph is defended perfectly by Wreh-Wilson. On 2nd and 10 with a 4-man rush, Keenum connects with Diggs for a great over the shoulder catch, but both feet are out of bounds. Now, on a big 3rd and 10 at the 39, GRADY JARRETT gets in there for the SACK, on a quarterback that does not get sacked. A loss of 9 forces the punt.
Roberts lets the ball bounce over his head and it bounces out of bounds at the 2. Coleman runs up the middle but again, called back for a Justin Hardy block in the back, which is declined forcing a 2nd and 8 at the 4. Another Coleman run on the far right side gains another couple of yards. At the 8, it is 3rd and 4, Coleman is lined up as a wide receiver, and Ryan throws a quick slant to Sanu, a little high and Sanu only gets his finger tips on it, but luckily it fell to the ground. Matt Bosher, under great pressure, gets the kick off to the 47 of the Vikings.
As the 2nd quarter begins, the Vikings start their short field drive with some quick passes and spinning runs. Murray makes a big break through the line for a 30-yard gain until Keanu Neal makes the stop at the 2-yard line. Jones makes a stop at the 1 forcing a 2nd down. Then a floating pass to the end zone to McKinnon, who celebrates disrespectfully doing the Dirty Bird. With 10 minutes to go in the half, the Vikings lead 7 to 3.
Roberts takes the kickoff out of the back of the end zone up to the 17, leading him to a sideline chat with Keith Armstrong. Then, Ryan starts this possession the same as the first, a low, shoe lace pass to Jones, who catches it for the first down. A fake handoff turns into a low pass to Marvin Hall and the Falcons are up to mid-field. With 3 tight ends in the game, a handoff to Freeman who is tripped up, keeps his feet and gains another first down. Ryan throws to Sanu and the Falcons are inside the 25. When every play is to a different player, you cannot defend that offense. Sanu and Ju are both on the left side, Ryan fakes, then scrambles up to the line of scrimmage, and instead of continuing his run, throws to Freeman at the first down marker, but it is too high for Freeman. Jones had been knocked down by Xavier Rhodes. 2nd down and Hooper moves causing a 2nd and 15. With a quick rush, Ryan throws to the line of scrimmage for a quick stop. Now another long 3rd down, a pass to Hooper that is 5 yards short and forces another Bryant field goal.
Another Bosher touchback gives the Vikings the ball at the 25. They pick on Wreh-Wilson again for a long pass, but Adam Thielen is out of bounds. McKinnon runs along the sideline for 2 yards, until stopped by Alford. Then Takk McKinley has an encroachment penalty. To make up for that TAKK makes the SACK on the next play. His 3rd sack in 3 games. The Vikings punt to Roberts who returns from the 29 up to the 32.
A quick Coleman run gets 6 yards, a jet sweep that FINALLY works to Gabriel, gets the first down. A quick pitch on the right side to Coleman for a 6-yard game. Freeman replaces Coleman, as the 2-minute warning break is called. Ryan next two passes are incomplete and Bosher punts to the 9.
Deion Jones quickly stops the 1st down draw. A wide open pass over the middle for a first down and the Vikings use their first time out. From the 23, Keenum is running from Beasley and gets a quick 5-yard pass off. After another first down completion, the defense is swarming causing a very quick out of bounds throw. Hit as he throws by Derrick Shelby, Keenum connects with Michael Floyd for a first down. The Vikings have no time outs (remember they wasted one early), are at midfield with 20 seconds to go. Keenum to Thielen at the 30 in the middle of the field, but is stopped as time runs out of the first half.
The Atlanta Falcons receive the ball in the 2nd half on the 25. A fake to Freeman leads to a 9-yard pass to Toilolo. Freeman easily gets the yard and turns on his jets and spin moves to gain 13 yards. Garland gets held by a defender for a free 5 yards. Sanu has a huge leaping reception, cutting back to Ryan for another first down. A pitch back to Freeman gains 4 yards along the left side. A pitch then to Coleman gains limited yards. With 3rd and 3, Ryan stands in the pressure and throws over the middle, the ball on the ground with Sanu trying to get under it in time. The Vikings challenged the catch, it was overturned and Bryant came on for another successful field goal. The Falcons lead 9-7.
The Vikings have a big runback to the 30. After a run, the Vikings are called for holding Neal who still made the tackle. With a 1st and 20, they try to run the ball and Ricardo Allen comes in from the right side backfield and helps Beasley stuff the run for a 2-yard loss. Adrian Clayborn again applying pressure, Beasley chasing Keenum causing him to pass beyond the line of scrimmage. Now, the Benz Nest is getting LOUD. 3rd and 25, crowd noise, and the Vikings dump off a short pass with Debo and Rico combining for the stop and forcing a 4th and 13 punt. A Viking tries to start a fight with Neal (really?) and Rico coming in to break everyone up as the D unites to defend each other.
Roberts fair catches at the 29 and begins again there. First play, Sanu with a big 14-yard catch moving the Falcons to the 43. Followed with a big pass to Jones, who was LITERALLY covered on the play, for a no call. Freeman runs for a few yards, Hardy is called for another block in the back, and again, the Vikings decline forcing a 3rd and 8. Being blitzed, Ryan heaves the ball down to Gabriel who cannot catch up with the ball with the defender slowing him up.
Kemal Ishmael holds on the punt and Bosher is forced to punt a second time, a booming, high kick and the Vikings start at their own 11. Good call on the Vikings to make the Falcons re-kick.
Thielen makes his second catch of the day, 6-yards before meeting up with Rico. Then Murray runs 12 yards for a first down, the Vikings up to the 29. Murray is then stuffed by Takk. Keenum has some time, avoids an ankle tackle by Courtney Upshaw and finds Diggs near midfield. Several missed tackles by Falcons leaving their feet, McKinnon gains 7 yards. THEN Murray is met by that unmovable force, Keanu Neal! The crowd is loud again for 3rd down, but the Vikings still gain another first down. After a 2-yard run, they try a jet sweep that is stopped by De’Vondre Campbell forcing a 3rd and 2. The Falcons seem to have some personnel confusion and call a time out. Rico makes the stop right at the first down marker. The Vikings have the ball at the Falcons 24. Murray makes a couple of good runs, before breaking out to get inside the 10. Then he runs into Ahtyba Rubin as the 3rd quarter ends.
As the 4th quarter begins, Keenum throws an easy pass to Kyle Rudolph in the back of the end zone. The Vikings now lead 14 to 9 over the Falcons.
Roberts takes the kick at the 2 and forces his way to the 23. The pitch to Coleman is bobbled several times off his right shoulder pad, but Coleman captures the ball and still gains 3 yards. Under pressure, Ryan throws in complete as he is hit. Facing another long 3rd down and very unsuccessful today, Ryan is nearly sacked, but escapes and runs to the line of scrimmage. Bosher punts a 56-yarder which is returned for a few yards and the Vikings begin a their own 27.
Keenum comes out throwing to Rudolph for 8 yards. McKinnon fighting for a first down. McKinnon runs for a couple, but is called back for illegal chop block on Jarrett’s legs. Meanwhile, Debo is being helped up and walks off the field on his own. The next 3 plays are all stops by Rico who has taken this defense and possession onto his shoulders.
Roberts returns the punt to the 29-yard line. Freeman starts the drive with a 3-yard gain, then a 7-yard gain, running and leaning forward to get the first down. The Falcons fake the run, the in trouble, Ryan tosses to Freeman who spins off tackles and gains another 7 yards. Freeman takes a pitch back, goes to the left side, gains the first down and more behind the blocking of FB Derrick Coleman and Sanu. The pass to T Coleman is dropped, then toss to Jones at the line of scrimmage, who forces his way for the first down, head first into defender. Rhodes makes a stop on Coleman. Ryan is a little high to Jones over the middle. Another 3rd and long to Gabriel who is 4 short of the first down. And, Bryant on for a field goal attempt that pulls just left of the goal post.
With just over 4 minutes to go in the game, the Vikings come out moving the ball easily to midfield. The Falcons take their 2nd time out and allow a 3-yard gain, then take their final time out. 3rd and 4 and an easy 22-yard gain by Thielen. Murray breaks through the line for a 9-yard gain, then the first down.
After the 2-minute warning, the Vikings take a knee to run out the clock for the win. And all of the Falcon fans and Dan Quinn look as grumpy as I feel.
Injury Update: No significant injuries occurred in the game.
Iron Falcon Award: Ricardo Allen for single handedly stopping the Vikings in one series, from a different position, and continuing to be a team leader on defense. Rico ended with 8 total tackles from his new nickel position.
All Photos Courtesy of Atlanta Falcons