By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings recorded 558 yards of offense and scored on all but three of their drives to win their first game at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Atlanta Falcons 41-28 Sunday in their second home game of the season.
The Vikings (2-2) turned their offense over to a pair of rookies. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed 19 of 30 passes for 317 yards and a two-point conversion. He also ran five times for 27 yards and a touchdown. Running back Jerick McKinnon gashed the Falcons defense with 135 yards on 18 carries.
However, before McKinnon took over as the primary ball carrier, veteran Matt Asiata scored three rushing touchdowns.
The Falcons (2-2) matched the Vikings nearly point-for-point and had a slim one-point lead after three quarters. But, the Vikings defense made a few in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
Offense Grade: A
The Vikings offense was on point almost the entire game. Bridgewater was great in his debut. The offensive line was a big part of it. Bridgewater had time and Asiata and McKinnon had running lanes. The Falcons defense only had two tackles for a loss and one hit on the quarterback.
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner got the Falcons defense back on their heels with quick passes and quick runs. The biggest beneficiary was Jarius Wright, who had a career-highs with eight catches for 132 yards. He had a long of 52 yards on a wide receiver screen on the Vikings’ first offensive possession.
Defense Grade: C-
The Vikings defense made plays when they needed. Harrison Smith recorded an interception and Anthony Barr sacked Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter to turn the momentum in the Vikings favor and sealed the victory. Josh Robinson added an interception on a Hail Mary deep pass as time expired.
But, through the first three quarters, the Falcons had no trouble moving the ball. The Falcons converted 10 of 13 third down plays and scored a pair of touchdowns on blown coverages.
The Vikings secondary may have had the toughest game. The entire group was mediocre in coverage, but the problem was tackling. Captain Munnerlyn missed a tackle and Robert Blanton took a bad angle that turned short gains into long touchdowns. Xavier Rhodes was the team’s best cornerback with four passes defensed.
Quarterback Grade: A-
Bridgewater was exactly what the Vikings needed. He was decisive, confident and accurate. The 21-year-old rookie scored his first touchdown on a 13-yard run with just under two minutes remaining in the first half.
The only blemish on his day was a third down run that came up a yard short of the goal line. He left the game at that point with an ankle injury. He was carted back to the locker room for x-rays, but returned to the side line after they came back negative. He was diagnosed with a sprained ankle and Christian Ponder finished the game.
Special Teams Grade: B-
The Vikings’ special teams units had moments. Blair Walsh made a key 55-yard field goal that gave the Vikings a two-score lead with less than four minutes remaining. Jeff Locke bombed a 62-yard punt just inside the side line. Jabari Price made a lunging shove of Devin Hester that limited what could have been a big punt return. Cordarrelle Patterson had a 49-yard kickoff return. Marcus Sherels had a 24-yard punt return.
Those the good plays. Those units also had a pair of mishaps. Walsh missed a 49-yard field goal and Locke kicked just a 24-yard punt.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.