First Quarter:The well-oiled Falcons offense continued its methodical run through the second half of the season in the first quarter against the Vikings. Although their first drive stalled with a three-and-out, the Falcons responded with a nine-play drive, capped by a 27-yard touchdown pass to Harry Douglas, his first touchdown of the season. Atlanta's defense put the clamp down early on against the Vikings, only allowing one first down in the first quarter, despite suffering injuries to both starting cornerbacks. Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes left the game, though Robinson would later return. The Falcons D limited Minnesota to 21 yards of offense in the quarter.
Second Quarter:Atlanta maintained its dominance in the second quarter, extending the lead to 17-0 on a Roddy White touchdown reception and a Matt Bryant field goal at the end of the half. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon highlight the Falcons' impressive defensive performance with a sack in Minnesota's first second-quarter possession to force a third-and-17 situation. The following Falcons' possession may go down as one of the best drives this season. They pieced together 10 plays, burning 68 yards and six minutes off the clock. Matt Ryan was perfect on the drive, completing five passes in five attempts, including two completions for 18 yards to Douglas and Tony Gonzalez. The drive ended with White's leaping grab in the back of the endzone and then made sure to tiptoe his feet to the ground for the completion. Atlanta took their lead into the half, lead by Ryan's 77 percent completion percentage and Atlanta's defense holding the Vikings to 97 first-half offensive yards.
Third Quarter:The third-quarter hauntings continued for the Falcons against Minnesota. Atlanta was only able to record one first down on offense and allowed the Vikings to to put together a time-consuming drive that resulted in a one-yard touchdown run from Toby Gerhart to bring Minnesota to within 10 points. One of the few highlights of the quarter were the two sacks by defensive end Lawrence Sidbury. Still the sacks couldn't stop the Vikings from gaining 81 yards and Atlanta's offense was ineffective, only producing 28 yards.
Fourth Quarter:A close game got closer in the fourth as the Falcons continued to let the Vikings back into the game. The Vikings recovered a punt to the Falcons to begin the quarter and turned the turnover into points, but not without it getting interesting. The Vikings faced a fourth-and-13 and managed to complete a 39-yard touchdown pass to Harvin. Both teams traded possessions before Atlanta's offense rebounded and drove up the field. On the ninth play of the drive, Ryan connected with second-year tight end Michael Palmer for a three-yard touchdown extending Atlanta's lead to 24-14. On the kickoff, Harvin made the catch seven yards in the end zone and returned it 104 yards before Chris Owens caught up with him and brought him down. The Vikings made their way to the one-yard line before Weatherspoon stopped Gerhart for a two-yard loss on fourth-and-1, ensuring the Atlanta victory.
Play of the Game:Although a score wouldn't have given them the lead, Minnesota responding to Atlanta's final touchdown with a kick return for a touchdown could have been demoralizing for the Falcons. Chris Owens' tackle of Harvin on his 104-yard return at the Atlanta 3-yard line saved the immediate touchdown. The Falcons defense stepped up, keeping the Vikings out of the end zone, but Owens' play kept a close game from getting any closer.
Player of the Game:Sean Weatherspoon's stop on fourth-and-1 after the Harvin return ended the game. Minnesota's last effort was a handoff to Gerhart up the middle and Weatherspoon got in the middle of the play as it happened, stopping the back for a 2-yard loss. That was just the tip of the iceberg for Weatherspoon. He led the team with ten total tackles, including three for a loss. He added a sack and an additional quarterback hit. Atlanta's offense scored the points needed to win, but Weatherspoon led Atlanta's defensive effort, holding the Vikings to 64 yards rushing.
Turning Point:Leading by only three points, the Falcons needed a score and turned to one of the unlikeliest targets. Ryan lead the Falcons on a drive halfway through the fourth quarter that saw him complete five of six passes, but his last was the most important. On third-and-3 from Minnesota's 3-yard line, Ryan took the snap and looked to Palmer. Ryan fired a pass to Palmer who secured the ball, the score and the lead.
Stat of the Game:After going 2-for-9 in the redzone in the past two games, the Falcons vowed to correct their failures inside their opponent's 20-yard line this week. They responded with a three-for-four effort, with two scores from touchdowns.
Tweet of the Game:The third quarter saw virtually the entire Falcons team disappear and allowed the Vikings to get back into the game with a touchdown. Atlanta had two possessions and managed only 28 yards of offense. Their fourth quarter score more closely resembled the Falcons offense that took a 17-0 lead into the half. Their return to the game prompted Falcons fan @jeannathomas to respond this way: "Oh, hi, Falcons offense. Welcome back. We missed you guys.
Quote of the Day:Weatherspoon was instrumental all day in keeping the Falcons ahead and he was key in the final play of the game on offense for Minnesota. A smiling Weatherspoon told the media after the win how happy he was about the way his teammates responded when they had to keep Vikings points off the board: "Whenever you face adversity, there's going to come a point in time where you've got to step up and make a play. We did a good job of keeping them out of there and at the end we got off the field. That's big for us and that helped us with the win."