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Week 13 Game Recap: Minnesota Vikings 14, Atlanta Falcons 9
What you need to know
The Vikings squeaked by the Atlanta Falcons for their 8th straight victory this week. The offense was unimpressive but managed to do just enough to score two touchdowns and get the win. The real story was the Vikings' defense and Xavier Rhodes lockdown coverage of Julio Jones
. Jones had managed 12 catches for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns last week but was held to just 2 catches for 24 yards against Rhodes. The rest of the defense also stepped up and held Atlanta to making 3 out of 4 field goals on the day. An interesting note to add is the Vikings failed to record a sack for the first game this season. Case Keenum
was very efficient but not spectacular and the run game was uneven at best. The Vikings are now the first team to ever have 10 wins the same season their city hosts the Super Bowl. Minnesota travels to Carolina next week to take on the Panthers.
Atlanta had five penalties on run plays during the first offensive drives and it nullified two significant gains from Devonta Freeman
. This limited Atlanta to an opening-drive field goal. Freeman ran hard and productively all day, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Atlanta then had the ball rammed down its throat during the Vikings’ second drive that included eight runs on a nine-play drive that capped with the go-ahead score. Atlanta could only manage field goals during the first three quarters while the Vikings’ had two long drives for touchdowns, including an eight-minute drive where Case Keenum
bought time against the Atlanta rush and found big openings in the middle of the field. Meanwhile, Xavier Rhodes rerouted Julio Jones
repeatedly and held Jones to one catch in the first 3.5 quarters of this game by re-routing the big receiver at the line of scrimmage. Atlanta finally adjusted during the final half of the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late. Minnesota’s ball control and ability to force Matt Ryan
to make tough decisions under pressure proved too much.
|QB Case Keenum, 66 offensive snaps, Pass: 25 - 30 - 227 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 4 - -1 - 0|
Keenum had the best day on offense for the Vikings but did not really wow anyone all game. The most impressive part of his stat line was completing 83.3% of his passes. The overall yardage was not there, but he did add both touchdowns through the air today. Keenum hit Jerick McKinnon
on a 2-yard bootleg play where McKinnon used Kyle Rudolph
as a rub on his defender and was found wide open in the end zone. The second touch down came on a 6-yard strike right up the seam to Rudolph. The big tight end beat his linebacker in coverage and the safety was late coming over to cover. It was an easy throw and catch for the touchdown with no one in the immediate area. Keenum did a better job spreading the ball around this week and completed passes to 9 different receivers. The big play eluded Keenum this week with his longest play of the day being a 22-yard catch and run by Adam Thielen
on the last drive of the game to help run the clock out. Keenum will have another stiff test next week as the Vikings travel to Carolina to take on the Panthers.
|RB Latavius Murray, 30 offensive snaps, Rush: 16 - 76 - 0, Rec: 3 - 21 - 0 (3 targets)|
Murray was given the start for the Vikings again this week and had the better day as well. He was given 7 more carries and only has 2 fewer receptions than Jerick McKinnon
this week. The gap between the two backs is becoming more distinct and Murray is making the best of it. Murray had the longest play for the Vikings on the day when he took the ball up the middle, broke a tackle, and rumbled 30 yards downfield before being tackled at the 2-yard line. This set up a McKinnon receiving touchdown and gave the Vikings their first lead of the day. Murray averaged 4.8 yards per carry and continues to look like the best running back in Minnesota.
|RB Jerick McKinnon, 35 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 24 - 0, Rec: 5 - 28 - 1 (5 targets)|
This was another rough rushing day for McKinnon. He did not surpass 25 yards rushing and only averaged 2.7 yards per carry when he did touch the ball. The only saving grace was the 2-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. McKinnon was able to use Kyle Rudolph
as a rub for his linebacker in coverage and a rolling Case Keenum
found him all alone in the end zone for the first Vikings touchdown. The best part of the highlight was he capped the touchdown with the old Atlanta ‘dirty bird’ celebration as a throwback to the city he grew up in. Thankfully this did not serve as motivation for the Falcons and the Vikings managed to walk away with the win.
|WR Adam Thielen, 60 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 51 - 0 (5 targets)|
This was the worst game Thielen has put forth all season, and he still had 51 yards and averaged 12.8 yards per catch. Thielen has been a machine with his 100-yard games but faltered this week. The Falcons did a great job disguising their coverages and gave a lot of help over the top when covering Thielen. His biggest play did not come until the last drive of the game where the Vikings were just trying to run out the clock. On a 3rd and 4 play, Thielen caught a short pass and turned it up the field for 22 yards. Thielen has been great all season but was held in check this week against a revamped Falcons defense.
|WR Stefon Diggs, 48 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 5 - 0, Rec: 2 - 32 - 0 (5 targets)|
With Thielen being bottled up, it would be easy to think Diggs would pick up the slack and find the voids left in coverage by giving help elsewhere. However, Diggs was unable to find any room and even struggled to bring in the majority of passes thrown his way. Diggs only caught 2 of his 5 targets but did manage to take those two catches for 13 and 19 yards respectively. He was also used on an end around again this week and managed 5 yards on the ground. Keenum missed Diggs on a deep pass before the first half ended, but the other 2 incompletions came on short passes that could have easily been caught. Diggs is going to have to step up next week if Thielen is taken out in coverage again against the Panthers.
|TE Kyle Rudolph, 64 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 36 - 1 (5 targets)|
Rudolph was the second most productive receiver for the Vikings this week and he only managed 36 yards through the air. The big tight end got his shot to shine in the red zone and caught a 6-yard pass from Keenum that would prove to be the game-winning touchdown. Rudolph worked right up the seam against a linebacker who thought he was passing him off to the safety in coverage, but the safety was late getting over and Rudolph had the easy touchdown catch. He also added a 16-yard catch and run on the Vikings last drive of the game to help the Vikings run out the clock. Rudolph caught 4 of his 5 targets and did as much damage as anyone else in the Viking offense.
|QB Matt Ryan, 53 offensive snaps, Pass: 16 - 29 - 173 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 1 - 0|
Ryan got hot during the third drive of the game, finding Julio Jones
, Marvin Hall
, and Mohamed Sanu
on first-down passes for strong gains on an over route, a dig, and a skinny post. Ryan got Atlanta moving on the first drive of the second half, but a third-down throw to a wide-open Mohamed Sanu
was too low and the Falcons had to settle for its third field goal of the game to re-take the lead. The Vikings began blitzing Ryan during the first two drives of the second half as a way to counter Ryan throwing successfully on first downs. Ryan forced the ball on consecutive targets, leading to a punt in the middle of the third quarter. After losing the lead in the fourth quarter, Ryan had to force a throw to a covered running back while pressured up the middle. The Vikings collapsed the pocket on the following play and forced Ryan to break the pocket, leading to an Anthony Barr tackle, a 4th and 6, and a punt. Ryan could not find Julio Jones
because Xavier Rhodes was too physical for Jones to overcome at the line of scrimmage, and Atlanta did not begin motioning the receiver away from Rhodes’ press techniques until late in the game.
|RB Devonta Freeman, 39 offensive snaps, Rush: 12 - 74 - 0, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 (2 targets)|
He bounced off his own lineman on a run towards left guard and tried to work to the outside, but he was dropped by a defensive tackle for no gain on the second play of the series. Minnesota stuffed Freeman again with penetration in the backfield for a two-yard loss four plays later. He made a nice head fake in the backfield to set up penetration at the right edge to earn five yards off right tackle on a 1st and 20 later in this first drive. Two plays later on 3rd and 8, Freeman found a huge hole inside the right guard and up the right flat with a strong bounce out for a long gain and a first down. However, center Alex Mack committed a holding penalty. Freeman had another strong run up the right side but another holding penalty nullified the play. He earned 12 on a 3rd and 17 draw from shotgun to set up an opening drive field goal attempt. Atlanta ran power to the right side for a strong gain across midfield for a first down during the third series. Freeman earned another first down up the middle but this time, the Vikings were called for a penalty on the second play of the second half. Freeman earned four with a tough run through contact on a first-down run later in the drive. Freeman ran hard up for a first down in the middle of the fourth quarter and then earned seven on a check-down and made two defenders miss for most of the gain. Freeman earned another strong crease on a pitch to the left side on the following play.
|RB Tevin Coleman, 20 offensive snaps, Rush: 8 - 22 - 0, Rec: 3 - 27 - 0 (6 targets)|
He got open on an in-cut on 3rd and 12 during the first drive and earned 10 up the middle during the first drive just past mid-field. Atlanta converted to Coleman from the shotgun a shallow route against Anthony Barr to the opposite flat for more than 15 yards and a first down. Coleman got open against Terrance Newman up the left sideline during the same drive, but Ryan overshot him by five yards. He earned six yards on a 2nd and 10 stretch to the right side. Coleman earned six to left end to lead off the fourth series of the half. He earned another six yards off right tackle two plays later. He consistently executed a patient first cut at the right moment. He couldn’t outrun the good angle by Everson Griffith on a misdirection toss to the left, forcing a third down during the first Atlanta drive of the half. Eric Kendricks prevented Coleman from controlling a target in the middle of the shallow zone in the fourth quarter.
|WR Mohamed Sanu, 45 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 43 - 0 (5 targets)|
Ryan targeted Sanu on a third down perimeter route at the sticks, but the cornerback McKenzie Alexander committed a 3rd and 10 pass interference and gave Atlanta a first down. Sanu dropped a quick slant on 3rd and 4 to end Atlanta’s second drive. Ryan delivered a skinny post o Sanu for more than 20 and a first down during the third drive. Sanu was wide open on a curl route and attacked the ball past Xavier Rhodes on the third play of the second half. This was after Sanu yelled at his staff during the first half to get him the ball. Sanu earned a first down on a route crossing the middle but Ryan’s throw was low and the officials overturned the play and forced a 47-yard field goal to end the opening drive of the second half. Ryan found Sanu at the top of the second drive of the third quarter on a 14-yard slant.
|WR Julio Jones, 42 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 24 - 0 (6 targets)|
He let the opening series slant go through his hands on a throw above his head. He earned a catch on a low-thrown drag route for a first down on the opening play of the Falcons’ third series. Ryan overshot Jones late in the half up the left sideline on 2nd and 4 after the two-minute warning. Jones had maybe a step on Rhodes. Ryan unsuccessfully tried to force the ball into Jones who was working tightly under safety Andrew Sendejo while Minnesota blitzed the quarterback. The Falcons finally began motioning Jones to get him free and used him on a shallow route to earn yards after the catch for a short first down on a tough run in the fourth quarter. Ryan was wide of Jones over the middle on 2nd and 10 late in the fourth quarter. Xavier Rhodes only gave up short passes that were designed to beat man coverage based on defender position and he routinely re-routed Jones with press coverage. Atlanta’s staff finally moved Jones around late in the fourth quarter but too little, too late.
|WR Taylor Gabriel, 27 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 5 - 0, Rec: 1 - 6 - 0 (2 targets)|
He was stuffed on a WR screen in the left flat by Harrison Smith during the first Atlanta drive. Even if he broke the tackle and earned a positive gain, Jake Matthews was called for holding. He earned a first down on 2nd and 4 late during the fourth drive of the game. After Ryan forced the ball towards Jones under pressure, Ryan tried to throw it downfield to Gabriel on a well-covered vertical shot on 3rd and 8 and led to an Atlanta punt in the middle of the third quarter.
|WR Marvin Hall, 7 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 20 - 0 (2 targets)|
Ryan delivered a deep dig route against Xavier Rhodes, who played off coverage against Hall during Atlanta’s third series. McKenzie Alexander jumped the short throw to Hall on 3rd and 4 late in the half and forced an Atlanta punt. Ryan hit Hall at the right sideline to set up a 45-yard attempt that Bryant missed with 4:58 in the game.
|TE Austin Hooper, 34 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 21 - 0 (4 targets)|
He earned six on a short flat route in the right flat on the fifth play of the series. Hooper worked outside Julio Jones
on a shallow round on 2nd and 15 for a gain of seven to the left sideline. Hooper took a flat route for a short gain on 3rd down, leading to a 36-yard field goal by Matt Bryant
to cap Atlanta’s third drive.
On the sixth play of the first series, he got up on in the right flat and dragged Eric Kendricks on 3rd and 5 for a 16-yard gain and a first down. He earned nine yards on a play action flat route to begin the second half.