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Falcons not without chances in Week 9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings

Charting the turnover margin, the situation and outcomes that led to a 3-point deficit in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon. 

ATLANTA -- The Falcons were not without opportunities to win in their 31-28 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Sunday. This statement was never truer than when you break down the turnover margin and the points that came from four key losses of possession.

The Falcons offense turned the ball over twice Sunday, but so did the Vikings. The turnover margin was split right down the middle, tied up at 2-2. However, the difference in the game wasn't necessarily the turnovers themselves but what happened afterward.

"Turnovers will always hurt you," Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said, "but we didn't take full advantage of the ones we got. That was a big swing."

In the next few sections, we take a look back at these key situations, what happened and why it mattered.


Turnover No. 1

The situation: Momentum started to shift Atlanta's way when linebacker Arnold Ebiketie sacked Vikings quarterback Josh Dobbs in the second quarter. The ball popped out of Dobbs' hands, and linebacker Lorenzo Carter recovered the fumble, returning it all the way to the Vikings' 1-yard line.

The outcome: On the very first play from scrimmage, offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom was flagged for a false start, backing the Falcons up to the Minnesota 6-yard line. A quick pass from quarterback Taylor Heinicke to tight end Jonnu Smith got the Falcons back to the 1. But a handoff to Smith on second down picked up no yards, and the third-down play yielded a loss when running back Tyler Allgeier was dropped 4 yards behind the line of scrimmage. The Falcons had to settle for a 23-yard field goal from Younghoe Koo.

Points scored after turnover: Three

Turnover No. 2

The situation: On 3rd-and-2 in the third quarter, defensive lineman David Onyemata sacked Dobbs for a loss of 6 yards. Originally ruled a forward pass, newly acquired defensive lineman Kentavius Street came down with the interception. Later, the forward pass was ruled a fumble recovered by Street. Either way, the Falcons defense notched another takeaway. This time, Atlanta would give the ball back to its offense at the Minnesota 30-yard line.

The outcome: After running back Bijan Robinson picked up 2 yards on first down, quarterback Taylor Heinicke was sacked for a loss of 8. On 3rd-and-long, Heinicke aired the ball out, trying to hit wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge streaking toward the end zone. Though Hodge came down with the ball, it was ruled an incomplete pass as he didn't get his feet down in bounds. The Falcons sent Koo back out for a 54-yard field goal, which he made.

Points scored after turnover: Three

Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo #6 kicks a field goal during the Week 9 Game against the Minnesota Vikings at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, November 5, 2023. (Photo by Brandon Magnus/Atlanta Falcons)


Turnover No. 1

The situation: After ripping off his longest run of the day in the third quarter, Robinson was tackled 14 yards down field. As he was being brought down, though, he lost control of the ball. The Vikings recovered the fumble on the Atlanta 40-yard line.

The outcome: Six plays and 40 yards later, Dobbs was breaking tackles, scurrying his way into the end zone from 18 yards out for a touchdown. Following the touchdown, the Vikings went for two, converting the 2-point conversion and tying the game at 21-all with the fourth quarter looming.

Points scored after turnover: Eight

Turnover No. 2

The situation: On the Falcons' very next drive after the Dobbs touchdown run, Heinicke threw a pass intended for wide receiver Damiere Byrd to start said drive. The pass was intercepted by cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. and returned to the Atlanta 24-yard line.

The outcome: The Vikings converted a first down to start their drive but would come up short inside the red zone with cornerback A.J. Terrell recording a couple tackles for loss. The Vikings would settled for a 32-yard field goal.

Points scored after turnover: Three

Atlanta Falcons running back Bijan Robinson #7 during the fourth quarter of the Week 9 Game against the Minnesota Vikings at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, November 5, 2023. (Photo by Jay Bendlin/Atlanta Falcons)


The Vikings defeated the Falcons, 31-28, in Atlanta on Sunday. Three points separated the defeater from the defeated.

As we can see in the charts above, the Falcons scored six points off Vikings turnovers. In comparison, the Vikings scored 11 points off Falcons turnovers. That's a margin of five points between the two. If the Falcons turn either of the turnovers the defense acquired into more than three points, perhaps the outcome of Sunday's game looks different. Maybe it feels different, too.

"We're frustrated," offensive lineman Jake Matthews said. "We had our opportunities and we couldn't find a way."

If turnover issues continue to go unresolved, it's moments like those listed above that will continue to separate opponents from the Falcons.

"We can't sugarcoat or make excuses," Smith said. "We had our chances and we didn't get it done."

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