On paper, the Atlanta Falcons defense looked to be in for another huge day following the blowout win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Minnesota Vikings were starting a rookie quarterback and were without Adrian Peterson and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Heading into the game, Minnesota had one of the league’s worst offenses.
Instead, the Falcons’ defense was gashed repeatedly for 558 yards in the 41-28 loss.
The loss was also Atlanta’s eighth straight on the road in an outdoor stadium, dating back to the 2012 season.
The Falcons (2-2) also lost three starting offensive linemen: Joe Hawley, Justin Blalock, and Lamar Holmes.
The injuries to the linemen forced Atlanta to play tight end Levine Toilolo at right tackle.
Coming into the game, the Vikings (2-2) hadn’t scored a touchdown in seven quarters. That changed quickly as Teddy Bridgewater orchestrated an eight-play, 73-yard touchdown drive on Minnesota’s first possession.
At the half the Falcons were down 10, and the Vikings had already gained 351 yards of offense and 24 points. Bridgewater piled up 197 yards on 11 of 16 passing.
It may have been his first start, but the rookie quarterback looked unfazed by the moment. He totaled 317 yards through the air on 19 of 30 passing. He also showed off his wheels with a 13-yard touchdown run, but an ankle injury in the fourth quarter forced him to exit the game early.
It didn’t matter.
The Falcons did come out firing in the third quarter to briefly taking a 28-27 lead. However, that didn’t last long as Bridgewater put together another scoring drive – with a successful two-point conversion – to put the Vikings back on top permanently.
Peterson’s shoes are hard to fill, but Matt Asiata and rookie Jerick McKinnon proved they were more than capable of doing so. Asiata matched his three-touchdown career total, and McKinnon gave several glimpses of his explosiveness, gaining 135 yards on just 18 attempts, highlighted by a 55-yarder.
Matt Ryan was largely impressive, putting up 298 yards and three touchdowns. He did have two interceptions, with one being a desperation heave to end the game.
Atlanta did get explosive plays from Devin Hester on a 36-yard catch and run for a touchdown and Antone Smith, who scampered for a 48-yard touchdown run.
At the end of the day, Falcons didn’t capitalize on the opportunity to sit alone atop the NFC South with the Carolina Panthers losing to the Baltimore Ravens earlier.
Atlanta has a lot of cleaning up to do before going on the road again to the square off against a rejuvenated Eli Manning and the New York Giants.
Atlanta’s problems on defense took center stage. They looked helpless as the Vikings ran and pass with ease, churning out 558 yards of offense. The Falcons also gave up two explosive plays over 50 yards in the first half almost immediately. Kroy Biermann attempting to cover Greg Jennings was one of the several confusing decisions of the day.
William Moore left the game with a shoulder injury and didn’t return. Losing him for a significant amount of time would be an unneeded blow to an already bad defense.
Of the injuries to the lineman, Hawley’s seemed to be the worst. He was grimacing noticeably while holding his knee and had to leave the field on a cart. Needless to say, that’s not good news.
Roddy White had several drops. On Ryan’s first interception, it looked as though White didn’t come back to the ball aggressively enough. It may be too early in the season to worry, but the usually-consistent receiver looked like he reverted back to the receiver he was in his first two years in the league. There’s also the possibility he’s not fully healed from his hamstring injury, and that’s just as concerning.