For the second consecutive game, the Falcons built a nice lead only to let it whittle away before pulling out the win.
They had a chance to rout the Minnesota Vikings, but eventually had to settle for a 24-14 victory Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
Cornerback Christopher Owens helped to save the game with a tackle on Minnesota’s Percy Harvin, who had broken free on a kickoff return. Also, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon had a key stop on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
The Falcons, who have won five of their last six games, improved to 7-4. The Vikings, who were playing without their star running back Adrian Peterson, dropped to 2-9.
Behind the hot passing of Matt Ryan, the Falcons held a 17-0 lead at halftime.
Ryan completed 14 of 18 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns to help the Falcons take control of the game in the first half.
After an exchange of punts, the Falcons got into gear.
The offense relied heavily on running backs Michael Turner and Jason Snelling to march deep into Minnesota territory. After reaching the 18-yard line, right guard Joe Hawley was called for holding. Falcons coach Mike Smith said penalties and dropped passes were the reasons why the red-zone offense had stalled while going 3 of 10 over the two previous games.
But this time, they were able to overcome Hawley’s penalty. On second-and-19 from the 27, Harry Douglas caught a pass over the middle and ran through attempted tackles by E.J. Henderson and Asher Allen on his way to the end zone.
While Minnesota’s offense was sputtering about the Falcons added two more scores.
In the second quarter, Ryan found Roddy White in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown.
Bryant added a 37-yard field goal to make it 17-0.
Things started to turn in the third quarter. On their first possession of the second half, the Falcons elected to punt on fourth-and-1.
Minnesota finally started to move the ball.
Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder converted on 3 of 3 third down situations during the 80-yard drive that was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Toby Gerhart.
The Vikings were able keep a vital fourth quarter drive alive with two bizarre plays.
A rolling punt, after an apparent stop, hit Falcons cornerback Dominique Franks and the Vikings recovered.
The Falcons had them stopped again after a pass was ruled incomplete on third-and-13 after the play was challenged. On fourth down, Ponder tossed a 39-yard touchdown pass to Harvin to make it 17-14.
After an exchange of punts, the Falcons went on a nine-play 73-yard drive. Ryan tossed his third touchdown pass, a 3-yarder, to tight end Michael Palmer to make it 24-14.
The Vikings were not done. Harvin broke loose for a 104 yard return down to the Falcons’ 3 with 6:28 to play. He brought the ball out from 8-yards deep in the end zone. Owens chased him down and made the tackle.
The Falcons defense, which has been stingy in the red zone all season, held the Vikings out of the end zone. On fourth-and-goal from the one, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was the first player to hit Gerhart and stack him up short of the end zone.
Last week against Tennessee, the Falcons built a 23-3 lead before giving up two late touchdowns before pulling out the 23-17 win.