Vikings Defeat Falcons; Bridgewater, McKinnon Shine


Sep 28, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) celebrates a touchdown with wide receiver Greg Jennings (15) during the first quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

In the midst of a whirlwind season, which has included the Adrian Peterson child abuse case, the suspension of special teams coordinator Mike Priefer and a season-ending injury to starting quarterback Matt Cassel, the Minnesota Vikings were not looking good on paper heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Falcons were coming off of a 56-14 thumping of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football, in which quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 3 touchdowns and accumulated an outstanding 155.9 quarterback rating. Heading into Sunday’s game, Ryan was in the top-five in numerous quarterback statistical categories, such as touchdowns, quarterback rating and passing yards. To make matters worse, gave the Vikings’ pass coverage a combined score of -12.3 over their past two matchups against the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints (0.0 is considered average).  Simply, the Vikings’ chances of winning over the Falcons looked bleak.

Sep 28, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Matt Asiata (44) celebrates his touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons in the first quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The first half of Sunday’s matchup was a shootout. Matt Asiata and the Vikings struck first, finishing their opening drive with a three-yard rushing touchdown. The Falcons quickly countered with a 24-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Roddy White. White would finish the game with 73 receiving yards, four receptions and one touchdown. White’s receiving partner, Julio Jones, was the Falcons leading receiver with 82 yards on six receptions, but failed to get into the end zone against the Vikings. Devin Hester, the recently crowned record holder for most return touchdowns in NFL history, broke free from a couple of Viking tackles on his way to a 36-yard touchdown. Hester finished the game with 70 receiving yards, five receptions and this lone touchdown catch. Ryan would also connect with tight end Patrick DiMarco on a one-yard touchdown pass.

The Vikings countered Ryan’s three touchdown strikes with a great performance from their own quarterback, rookie Teddy Bridgewater. Although Bridgewater did not throw for any touchdowns, he completed 19 of 30 pass attempts for a total of 317 passing yards. Wide receiver Jarius Wright was Bridgewater’s favorite target, connecting with him eight times for 132 yards. Veteran wide receiver Greg Jennings totaled 72 receiving yards on three receptions, including a huge 29-yard reception in the 4th quarter. Cordarrelle Patterson only accumulated two receptions for 38 yards, but he was able to be effective on special teams, returning a kickoff 49-yards to set the Vikings up in great field position.

Sep 28, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon (31) rushes against the Atlanta Falcons in the third quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings win 41-28. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The MVPs for the Vikings on Sunday were the running back duo of Asiata and rookie Jerick McKinnon. Asiata totaled 78 rushing yards and three touchdowns. McKinnon, the second member of the Vikings rushing duo, rushed for 135 yards on 18 attempts, averaging an astounding 7.5 yards-per-attempt. Although the Vikings are without Peterson, the team’s biggest weapon on offense, the combination of Asiata’s power and McKinnon’s speed could prove too dominant for future opponents. Bridgewater also showed an ability to run with the ball, rushing for 27 yards and a touchdown on five carries. However, Bridgewater, similar to quarterback Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, only ran the ball when he needed to, opting to stand in the pocket under most circumstances.

The Vikings offensive line also played terrific as a unit, allowing zero sacks and only one hit Bridgewater. It could also be argued that much of Asiata and McKinnon’s success on the ground were due to the massive holes created by the Vikings’ offensive line.

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  • While the Vikings defense allowed the Falcons to convert 10 of 15 3rd-downs, they did provide some key plays in route to the Vikings victory. Arguably the largest play came in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter with Ryan and the Falcons attempting. Safety Harrison Smith picked off an errant Ryan pass, essentially sealing a Vikings victory in the process.

    The efficiency of Bridgewater’s passing in combination with Asiata and McKinnon’s rushing success proved to be too much for the Falcons, as the Vikings were able to pull off a surprising upset by a score of 38 to 24. Unfortunately, Bridgewater did suffer a sprained ankle late in the game, leaving his status for Thursday’s matchup against the Green Bay Packers a bit uncertain.

    Bridgewater will have a short week to heal, but head coach Mike Zimmer does not appear to be worried. With both the Vikings and Packers coming off of convincing victories over contending teams, Thursday’s rivalry matchup at Lambeau Field should be as enticing as ever.