It wasn’t pretty, but the Minnesota Vikings (10-2) did what they had to do to defeat the Atlanta Falcons (7-5) in a 14-9 victory. The win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium gave the Vikings their first eight-game win streak in a season since 1998 as they continue fighting for a first-round playoff bye and potentially home-field advantage in the playoffs.
Atlanta came in with a three-game win streak, and it appeared that they were starting to get back to their 2016 success. Minnesota will face another recent NFC champion next week in the Carolina Panthers (8-3 entering week 13) and will look to pick up another win against a potential playoff team. With that, take a look back at some of the takeaways from Sunday’s win.
Week 13 Minnesota Vikings Takeaways
The Defense Flexed Its Muscles Once Again
A week after the Falcons torched the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8) for 516 yards, many expected a potential shootout this week against the Vikings strong offense. Instead, the opposite happened as the Vikings held the Falcons to 275 yards of offense. Even though the Falcons had occasional success between the 20 yard lines, the Minnesota Vikings stood strong, holding Atlanta to four field goal attempts (converting three of four).
All eyes were on the matchup between Falcons star receiver Julio Jones and Vikings shutdown cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Jones was coming off a 12-catch, 252-yard performance against Tampa Bay. Rhodes, who has found success in the past against Jones, had other ideas, holding Jones to two catches for only 24 yards.
And even though the Vikings didn’t force any turnovers, their defense routinely got the Falcons off of the field. Atlanta entered Sunday’s game with the league’s best third-down offense. The Vikings, however, entered the game with the league’s best third-down defense, and continued their dominance, allowing only one third-down conversion to Atlanta’s high-flying offense.
Keenum Solid Again
Case Keenum didn’t make many of the flashy plays that Vikings fans have become accustomed to during the 2017 season. But November’s NFC Offensive Player of the Month was efficient, completing 25-of-30 pass attempts for 227 yards and two scores. He did much of it as the Falcons blanketed his top two receivers for most of the game.
Receiver Adam Thielen‘s 11-game streak of five or more receptions ended Sunday, as he was held to four receptions for 51 yards. He did get a clutch third-down reception late in the game that continued the Vikings game-clinching final drive. His counterpart, Stefon Diggs, only had two receptions for 32 yards as the Falcons played a softer defense that took away the explosive plays Minnesota has created most of this season.
Keenum was able to find other targets, though, connecting with nine different receivers. Running back Jerick McKinnon had a two-yard touchdown reception on a pick play that put him one-on-one with a linebacker. Tight end Kyle Rudolph had a six-yard touchdown catch on a stick route to start the fourth quarter, giving the Vikings a lead that would never be relinquished. In his post-game press conference, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer announced that Keenum would be the starter next week against Carolina, a rare early vote of confidence from the normally tight-lipped coach.
Playing Keep Away
Sometimes time of possession can be deceiving. A high-octane offense can sometimes have a low time of possession due to short touchdown drives that see many explosive plays. But in a 14-9 slugfest, it is a very telling stat.
The Vikings possessed the ball for 34 minutes, led by a steady run game that picked up 105 yards behind running back Latavius Murray, who paved the way with 76 yards off 16 carries and the game-clinching first down right before the two-minute warning. But no single play or drive was as telling as Minnesota’s second and final touchdown drive.
Down 9-7 halfway through the third quarter, the Vikings offense produced their best drive of the entire season. After Falcons punter Matthew Bosher pinned Minnesota at their own 11-yard line, Keenum and the offense marched down the field for a 15-play, 89-yard drive that ate up eight minutes and 15 seconds of game time. The Vikings converted on three third-down conversions during the drive as Murray and McKinnon carried most of the load.
Rudolph’s touchdown capped the drive and gave a rested Vikings defense life as they stopped the Falcons for a three-and-out on the next drive. Any hope for a comeback on the Falcons part ended when kicker Matt Bryant missed a 45-yard field goal wide-left with 4:59 left in the game.