Game Preview: Falcons at Vikings

The Atlanta Falcons travel to Minnesota for a Week 4 matchup against the Vikings in the 26th-career game between the clubs. While the Vikings lead the all-time series 15-10, Falcons head coach Mike Smith owns a 2-0 record against Minnesota, with his team posting wins in each of the last two meetings, including a 24-14 win at the Georgia Dome in 2011.

Top Matchup: Falcons CB Desmond Trufant vs. Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson

Smith made it very clear this week that his team needs to know where Patterson is on the field at all times on Sunday; the second-year WR has 11 receptions for 143 yards this season, while also serving as a RB threat, logging four rushes for 95 yards, including a 67-yard TD. As for the size and strength of the Vikings WR (6-2, 220), Trufant says they're just part of what makes Patterson great; "He's got good speed, good size and he's very good after the catch," Trufant said. "He's a kick returner as well, so every time he catches the ball, it's like he's trying to take it to the house; we have to wrap up and be physical (against him)."

Under the Radar Player to Watch: Falcons DE Ra'Shede Hageman

The Falcons second-round pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, Hageman enters his fourth NFL regular-season game, back at home in Minnesota. The former Golden Gopher, Hageman starred at the University of Minnesota, playing on the same field at TCF Bank Stadium, where he'll face the Vikings on Sunday. There's no better time to have your best game as a rookie than doing so in front of your own family and friends. "I'm going to treat it like another day at the office and just try to find a way to make plays," Hageman said. As for a favorite memory from TCF Bank Stadium...."The first game we played there, it was against Air Force and we won," Hageman said. Falcons fans hope their team leaves the field the same way Hageman did against Air Force, victoriously.

On the Radar Player to Watch: Falcons WR Devin Hester

It's very likely that the Vikings have focused on Hester as much as any of the other Falcons threats on offense this week, given his previous success against them. In 15 games against the Vikings, Hester is 9-6, all while playing for the Chicago Bears, logging the following stats:

    •    5 receiving TDs
    •    3 punt return TDs
    •    1 kick return TD

The last time Hester visited TCF Bank Stadium (Dec. 20, 2010), he left the field with some impressive numbers, including one kickoff return for 79 yards, two punt returns (one for a 64-yard TD) and two receptions, one for a 15-yard score.

Number of the Game:

We know that Falcons WR Roddy White will play on Sunday. The Week 4 matchup will be White's fifth-career game against the Vikings. In four games against the Purple and Gold, he is 3-1, totaling 19 receptions for 185 yards and 1 TD. The star WR previewed the current Vikings defense; "You look at their games and they're right in there," White said. "They're playing good defense, keeping everything in front of them, running to the ball and making tackles; they're doing an excellent job. We have to be on our p's and q's and be ready to play football."

Three Keys to Victory:

1. Don't be Fooled: Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner is known for his many creative ways to put points on the board, getting his playmakers the ball; Falcons S William Moore says the defense is expecting anything and everything from the Vikings offense. "From reverses to trick plays to all of the above, he (Turner) does a good job of using the strengths of his offense," Moore said. Preventing any trickery by the Vikings will prove to be beneficial for the Falcons on Sunday. 

2. Unleash the Four-Headed Monster: The Falcons-RB committee has produced 299 yards in three games this season; establishing a ground-and-pound attack, utilizing Steven Jackson, Antone Smith, Jacquizz Rodgers and Devonta Freeman, will open up more opportunities for the WR corps, including the NFL's receiving-yards leader, Julio Jones (365).

3. No Turnovers, Period: Roddy White said it himself, the Falcons have not been good at protecting the football (minus-1 turnover differential); "We have to fix those problems, hold onto the ball and just improve in that area," White said. The Vikings defense has two INTs, including a pick-six on the year; if Falcons QB Matt Ryan and company take care of the ball, a win is far more likely to be within reach in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

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