The game that was
The Falcons, for the second outing in a row, did not show the requisite killer-instinct of a championship level team. They built a big lead against the Vikings and then let them hang around before pulling out a harder-than-necessary 24-14 victory.
What we learned
1. The short passing game works. To combat Minnesota’s strong front seven, the Falcons worked their short passing attack and Matt Ryan was lethal. He completed 27 of 34 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns. The Falcons sprinkled in a little of their no-huddle attack to set tempo. Ryan spread the ball around to seven different receivers and would have had his third straight 300-yard game if Julio Jones would have hauled down a long pass and not have interfered with a defender.
2. The goal-line defense is stout. The defense responded when pressed against the wall after Percy Harvin’s record-breaking 104 yard return. It was the longest non-scoring play in league history. Owens had enough energy left after chasing down Harvin to sack Christian Ponder on first down. Safety Thomas DeCoud and middle linebacker Curtis Lofton were credited with stops on second and third down before Sean Weatherspoon shot a gap and dropped Minnesota running back Toby Gerhart short of the goal line.
3. Roddy White rounding into Pro Bowl form. For the second game a row, the Falcons moved White around and ran mostly out of three wide receiver sets with one back and a tight end. He was targeted 13 times and caught 10 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. On one play that the Falcons ran a lot last season, White went in motion and came storming out of the backfield and into the flat. Ryan passed to White while he was on the move. White turned the play up field for a big gain.
Cornerback Kelvin Hayden (dislocated toe) did not play because of injury. Cornerback Brent Grimes (knee) started the game, but left in the second quarter, while cornerback Dunta Robinson left the game, but returned to the action. Linebacker Stephen Nicholas (thigh) left the game in the third quarter and did not return. Wide receiver Roddy White (shoulder) left the game, but returned. No other injuries were reported by the Falcons.
The numbers game
The defense came up with four sacks, one short of their season-high of five in the opener against Chicago. Weatherspoon, Owens and defensive end Lawrence Sidbury (two) provided the sack attack.
Weatherspoon led the defense with a team-high 10 tackles, including a potential game-saver on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the fourth quarter.
Punter Matt Bosher’s averaged on five punts.
Tight end Tony Gonzalez caught nine passes for 69 yards. He has caught at least one pass in 174 straight games.
White has caught a pass in 79 straight games.
“When you get up, you definitely want to keep your foot on their throats.”
–Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon on the Falcons lack of a killer’s instinct.
Harry Douglas’ 27-yard touchdown catch was the Falcons longest play from scrimmage. . . Running back Michael Turner was held to 60 yards on 19 carries. . . The Falcons did not create a turnover for the second time in their last three games. . . Atlanta’s defense held the Vikings to 64 yards rushing on 24 carries. The Falcons are allowing 83.5 rushing yards per game, which ranks second in the league behind San Francisco (75.5).
The Falcons (7-4) will face the Houston Texans (8-3) at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Reliant Stadium. This will be just the third meeting between the two teams. The series is tied at 1-1.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog