The Vikings return home after playing their last two on the road to face the Atlanta Falcons. The Vikings are coming off of their fourth loss in five games, a 27-26 heartbreaker against the Seattle Seahawks. The Falcons dropped a 23-16 decision to the Carolina Panthers, keeping them winless in five games and costing head coach Dan Quinn his job.
The Falcons came out strong in their match-up against the Panthers. An opening 10-play, 92-yard drive culminated in a 35-yard Todd Gurley touchdown. The Panthers would score the next 20 points, including touchdown drives of 88 and 89 yards in the second quarter. The Falcons would get as close as 20-13 and were driving in the middle of the fourth quarter when quarterback Matt Ryan was intercepted in the end zone by safety Justin Burriss.
Ryan would complete 21-of-37 passes on the day for 226 yards and an interception. Gurley would make the most of his 14 carries picking up 121 yards and the touchdown. Calvin Ridley picked up his fourth 100+ yard game of the season, making eight catches for 136 yards.
Teddy Bridgewater had an excellent day against the Falcons defense but what quarterback hasn’t? Teddy threw for 313 yards completing 27-of-37 passes, including two touchdowns. The Falcons pass defense ranks 30th in the league allowing an average of over 336 yards per game. Mike Davis rushed for 89 yards in place of Christian McCaffrey with the team picking up 124 yards on 27 carries. Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore combined for 205 yards on 12 catches with a touchdown, and Davis picked up 60 receiving yards on nine catches. Bridgewater was comfortable in the pocket all day, as he was not sacked.
The Vikings are coming off of another gut-wrenching loss at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks. After taking a 13-0 lead into the locker room at halftime, a series of miscues allowed Seattle to score 21 unanswered points in just over three-and-a-half minutes, early in the third quarter. The Vikings would respond with a 77-yard touchdown drive, followed by one of 97 yards to carry a 26-21 lead late into the fourth quarter. An Eric Wilson interception of Russell Wilson with just under six minutes to play, put the Vikings in great position to close out the win, but a fourth-down run from the Seahawks’ six-yard line came up short and gave Russ one last chance. Wilson took full advantage, leading the Seahawks 94 yards in 1:42, culminating in a five-yard touchdown pass on fourth down that gave them the 27-26 victory.
Kirk Cousins played a gritty game, overcoming a fumble and interception, to put the Vikings in position to win the game. He ended with 249 yards on 27 of 39 passing with two touchdowns and the one interception. Dalvin Cook would injure his groin early in the third quarter. He returned for one play after the injury but would not return. He had 65 yards on 17 carries prior to the injury, including a touchdown. Alexander Mattison did an exceptional job in relief of Cook with 112 yards on 20 carries. As a team, the Vikings would run for 201 yards on 41 carries, the second consecutive week topping the 40 rushing attempts mark. Adam Thielen led the Vikings’ receivers with 80 yards on nine catches, including a pair of touchdowns.
Russell Wilson, who threw for under 60 yards in the first half, ended the game with 217 yards on 20-of-32 passing with three touchdowns. He also led the Seahawks’ ground attack, picking up 58 yards on just five carries. Chris Carson added 52 yards on eight carries, including a 29-yard touchdown run. D.K. Metcalf continued his strong season with 93 yards on six catches. He had two touchdowns, but his biggest catch of the night may have been a 39-yard grab on 4th-and-10 to keep the game-winning drive alive.
The Vikings’ second-half defensive woes continued, as they allowed 253 yards of offense and 27 points. Of the 155 points they have allowed this season, 103 have come in the second half of games.
The Falcons have been reeling since blowing a 25-point lead in Super Bowl 52. Their beleaguered head coach, Dan Quinn, was finally relieved of his duties after the Week 5 loss. The Vikings’ staff should invest in some asbestos jockey shorts, as well. The team has had three double-digit leads in its past three games and has come away with just one win. This is a match-up reminiscent of Reno Hightower and Jack Dundee, watching two teams going nowhere while trying to rekindle relationships with their wives — but I digress.
The Falcons are the second consecutive team faced by the Vikings with a poor pass defense. With the possibility of Cook being out for this game and beyond, Minnesota may lean more on their passing game, although Alexander Mattison showed that he can handle the job at running back. Raheem Morris will be the interim head coach for the Falcons. This may actually play in their favor; everyone wants to impress the new boss.
While the Vikings have been more competitive, they may still be suffering from a Seattle hangover. If the Falcons can stay close at halftime and keep the Vikings from attempting any onside kicks, I believe they have it in them to break into the win column this week.
Prediction: Falcons 31, Vikings 27