By: David Schiele
The Falcons could do nothing offensively. Atlanta converted just one third-down, while Matt Ryan only mustered 173 passing yards and Julio Jones was held to two catches. Ultimately, The Falcons could only settle for field goals as they fell to the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings 14-9 at home.
This game was a boxing match. Atlanta stayed competitive in the first half. They kept their guard up by continually stopping the Vikings’ offense, save for Minnesota’s lone touchdown drive that started around mid-field. The Falcons were only down by one point at halftime.
Atlanta came out swinging and took a 9-7 lead on the opening drive of the second half. They held that lead until the first play of the fourth quarter when Vikings quarterback Case Keenum connected with tight end Kyle Rudolph for a touchdown. Atlanta never recovered from that blow.
The Vikings two punches to the face were too much for the Falcons, who only landed three body shots.
“They did a good job of shutting all of us down,” said Matt Ryan. “We didn’t play very well.”
This loss knocks Atlanta out of the sixth wild-card spot in the NFC playoff race, for now. A Seattle loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football puts the Falcons back in their wild-card spot. However, if Seattle wins, the Falcons no longer control their playoff destiny.
“I know this team from the coaches to the players. We know that we are still alive,” said cornerback Robert Alford, who had to play without his position-mate Desmond Trufant on Sunday. “It’s not over yet. We just have to own our division and just win out.”
That will be a much challenging task. Each of the Falcons’ four remaining games are NFC South matchups. The first of which is in just four days when the Falcons host their rival New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees and co. average over 29 points per game and will present a steep challenge to the Falcons’ defense. However, Atlanta just held the eighth-best scoring offense in the Minnesota Vikings to just 14 points without two of their top-three cornerbacks.
As for the Falcons offense, they must get back to executing at the level they did in the previous three games. During those three games, the Falcons were converting nearly 66% of their third-downs and averaging nearly 32 points.
Nevertheless, Atlanta knows they cannot afford to lose another game this season. Any loss taken could prove fatal to the Falcons goal of making the playoffs and returning to the Super Bowl.