The Vikings made a statement in Sunday’s 14-9 road win over the Atlanta Falcons. They extended their winning streak to eight games and can win the NFC North with a victory next week. Daniel House analyzes today's big road win.
The Vikings made a statement in Sunday’s 14-9 road win over the Atlanta Falcons. They proved they can find a way to win when their backs are against the wall. Minnesota’s first half offense struggled, but their debilitating defense allowed them to weather the storm. It was in the second half where the Vikings potentially executed a defining moment in their season. A 15-play, 89-yard drive, capped by a 6-yard touchdown from quarterback Case Keenum to tight end Kyle Rudolph will be a moment everyone remembers later this year.
The scoring drive ate 8:15 off the clock and gave a winded Vikings defense time to rest. Minnesota was unable to sustain drives in the first half and it put a strain on their defense. Offensive coordinator Pat Shumur got the offense into a rhythm by setting up short passes, screens, and a mix of the running game. Running back Latavius Murray had 16 carries for 76 yards and was grinding out critical yardage down the stretch. Murray is gaining more confidence every week and is picking up a significant amount of yards after contact. When the offense is balanced, the Vikings are very difficult to stop. Their red zone offense has been considerably better this season, mostly due to Pat Shurmur’s play-design. He is using motion, rubs, and picks to place his playmakers in favorable situations. In Sunday’s game, a rub play helped running back Jerick McKinnon slip free for a receiving score.
Quarterback Case Keenum wasn’t perfect and left throws on the field, but he managed to make the big plays when needed. His ball placement was sporadic throughout the afternoon, but Pat Shurmur got him into a rhythm with quick passing. He completed 25 of his 30 passes for 227 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His notable 19-yard strike to wide receiver Adam Thielen extended the important scoring drive. Nine different receivers caught passes for the Vikings and Jarius Wright had two key third down conversions to extend drives. Keenum will need to go through his reads faster in future games, but he wasn’t reckless with the ball and made the plays necessary to win. The offensive line was up-and-down throughout the day, however, they managed to protect in key situations throughout the day, including a moment where Keenum had ten seconds to extend a play. Rashod Hill and Riley Reiff had a few negative reps, but Keenum felt the pressure and moved in the second half. Keenum was playing more confidently down the stretch, but it took awhile for him to get into a groove.
Minnesota’s defense sent a huge message to the world by shutting down a clicking Atlanta Falcons offense. The Falcons were averaging 31.7 points per game over the past three weeks and the Vikings held them to just nine points. Quarterback Matt Ryan failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in 30 games. The Falcons were also converting third downs at a 48 percent clip and were successful on just one of their ten tries. Wide receiver Julio Jones tallied just two catches for 24 yards, despite cornerback Xavier Rhodes not having his best day. Rhodes appears to be potentially battling the calf injury he suffered two weeks ago. The Vikings secondary, including Mackensie Alexander has continued to show growth and Atlanta had just 173 yards through the air. Alexander had a notable pass breakup and was called for a weak pass interference call, despite being in excellent position near the boundary.
The key moment in the game revolves around the long Vikings scoring drive because the defense could rest for over eight minutes. They forced a three-and-out on the next drive and created pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan. The defense looked very fresh and clamped down twice in the final minutes to fuel the Vikings’ win. Minnesota has now allowed just seven and nine points respectively, against the Los Angeles Rams and Falcons. They are showing they have the top defense in the NFL and a balanced offense to complement it.
The Vikings sent a major statement to the entire football community during their eighth straight win. Teams across the league will start to take Minnesota seriously because they can win in a variety of different ways. Their team chemistry is off the charts and they have a plethora of talent to pair with it.
Next week, they can win an NFC North title with a victory over Carolina, but they now have their eyes set on something bigger – the number one seed in the playoffs. Something that is definitely attainable.