On Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons fell to the Minnesota Vikings 14-9 in a battle at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium to drop to 7-5 on the season. This means that with the Seahawks victory over Philadelphia, Atlanta remains a game out of the second NFC wildcard spot. However, that result vaults the Vikings (10-2) into a tie with the Eagles for the top seed in the NFC and a whopping four games up in their division. Here are some things I observed from the game.
Falcons vs. Vikings Takeaways
The Vikings can run the ball
Latavius Murray was a work horse against the Falcons on Sunday. 16 carries for 76 yards and only one run for loss all day. While Case Keenum has been getting all the glory ever since he started playing, the Vikings have ran the ball over 50% of the time. Minnesota have a well balanced offense which allows both Keenum and Murray to shine.
2. Vikings’ O-Line is for real
Every offense and defense starts at the line of scrimmage and the Vikings have good position groups on both side of the ball. Despite giving up 2 sacks, Keenum had a clean pocket most of the day and Murray ran wild. Their offensive line allows them to lead in time of possession every week and they wore down the Falcons because of it.
3. Falcons’ secondary missed Desmond Trufant and Brian Poole
Any time a team is playing without 2 of their top 3 corners, their secondary is most likely going to struggle. The Falcons played with Robert Alford on one side (2nd corner), Blidi Wreh-Wilson on the other side (called up from practice squad), rookie Damontae Kazee at nickel corner (has played all year at mostly Safety but some at nickel) and CJ Goodwin (mostly special teams). The Falcons coaching staff does pretty well when players have to step in but there were a few miscues against Minnesota that proved costly. The touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph was because of a miscommunication which left the tight end wide open and Adam Thielen converted a critical 3rd-and-4 in the 4th quarter by defeating a weak press by Goodwin. Overall, the secondary did a decent job given the circumstances.
4. Falcons’ offense was out of Sync
The Falcons should have scored a TD on their opening drive, but holding penalties killed multiple good plays. On top of that, Matt Ryan threw high balls all day long and his receivers dropped catchable passes. The main reason the Falcons could not stay on the field is because of their poor third down conversion rate. The Falcons only converted on one of their 10 third down opportunities on the day. ONE THIRD DOWN OUT OF TEN. This performance is reminiscent of the Falcons second half Super Bowl meltdown where they could not convert third downs and left the defense on the field for most of the second half.
Over their past 3 games, the Falcons have taken advantage of below average secondaries in Dallas, Tampa Bay and a banged up Seattle. They faced a top 5 defense in Minnesota and got beat. Moving forward, the Falcons will need to learn how to win the close games if they have playoff aspirations. All four of Atlanta’s final matchups come against division rivals and their room for error is becoming more minuscule with each week.
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