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Game Preview: Vikings at Falcons

Posted Nov 28, 2017

The Minnesota Vikings (9-2) will travel to face the Atlanta Falcons (7-4) in Week 13, the second of three straight road games for Minnesota. The Vikings own a 4-1 road record, and the Falcons hold a 3-2 mark at home in 2017. The Vikings 9-2 start is the best start through 11 games for Minnesota since starting 10-1 in 2009. The Vikings currently have a seven-game winning streak, tied with New England for the second-best streak in the NFL and also the second-longest regular-season streak since Zimmer become head coach in 2014 (eight games from 12/20/15-10/9/16).

The Vikings offense, which ranks fifth in the NFL in yards per game (375.7), has been led by the consistent play from WR Adam Thielen, who is third in the NFL with 1,005 receiving yards and tied for fourth in the NFL with 70 receptions. QB Case Keenum has stepped in to start nine games, posting a 7-2 record and compiling 14 touchdowns, five interceptions and a career-best 96.2 passer rating. RBs Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray have filled the void left by rookie starting RB Dalvin Cook, helping the Vikings rush for 133.9 yards per game since Week 5, sixth in the NFL in that span. In the last five games, Murray has rushed for 399 yards (fourth in the NFL) and five touchdowns (tied for second in the NFL).

The Vikings defense has held opponents to 290.4 yards per game (fifth in the NFL) and 17.7 points per game (fifth in the NFL). The Vikings defense has limited opponents to 75.5 rushing yards per game (second in the NFL) and 3.3 yards per rush (third in the NFL).

DE Everson Griffen is tied for first in the NFL with 12 sacks this season, the third time in his career he has reached double digits (12 in 2014, 10.5 in 2015). LB Eric Kendricks, who has led the Vikings in tackles each of his first two seasons, is leading the Vikings with 97 tackles (coaches’ stats) and has tied his career high with 13 tackles on three separate occasions this season (at PIT, vs BAL, at CLE). S Harrison Smith has snagged a team-leading three interceptions this season, ranking tied for 10th in the NFL.

NATIONAL TELEVISION: FOX

Play-by-Play: Kevin Burkhardt Analyst: Charles Davis

Sideline: Pam Oliver

NATIONAL RADIO: ESPN RADIO

Play-by-Play: Marc Kestecher Analyst: Bill Polian

Sideline: Jeff Darlington

LOCAL RADIO: KFAN-FM 100.3/KTLK-AM 1130

Play-by-Play: Paul Allen Analyst: Pete Bercich

Sideline Reporters: Greg Coleman and Ben Leber

Pre-Game Show: Mike Mussman – 10 a.m. CT

KFAN and KTLK serve as the flagship stations for the 72-station, five-state Vikings Radio Network.

NORSEMAN NOTABLES

• The Vikings defense has been one of the stingiest in the NFL on third downs, holding opponents to a 28.5 percent conversion rate (39/137), the best mark in the NFL.

• WR Adam Thielen is tied for most games with 90-plus yards (six) in the NFL and is tied for the most games with 5-plus receptions (10). Thielen has also proven clutch, grabbing the second-most third-down receptions in the NFL (25), 20 of which have converted first downs.

• After totaling 304 yards and four touchdowns at Washington (11/12/17), Vikings QB Case Keenum became the first Viking QB to throw for over 300 yards and at least four touchdowns on the road since Daunte Culpepper threw for 425 yards and five touchdowns at New Orleans (10/17/04).

• TE Kyle Rudolph has caught 11 of his 12 red zone targets, the second-most RZ catches by a TE in 2017.

• The Vikings offense is fourth in the NFL with 52 plays of 20-plus yards — 40 passing (eighth in NFL) and 12 rushing (third in NFL) — and trails only the Saints (62), Patriots (54) and Rams (53).

• The Vikings have 10 scoring drives of 80-plus yards in 2017, six more than they totaled in all of 2016.

• The Vikings have allowed only 12 sacks this season, tied for the fewest in the NFL (Chargers) and have had five games without allowing a sack, tying a franchise record for most in a single season.

• QB Case Keenum went a franchise-record 122 pass attempts without being sacked, breaking the previous team record of 118 by Daunte Culpepper in 2002.

• The Vikings rush defense has allowed only 11 runs of 10-plus yards in 2017. Denver and Tennessee are tied for second with 20 each.

• The Vikings defense ranks second in red zone touchdowns allowed, holding teams to a 40.0 percent touchdown rate that trails only Cincinnati (39.5 percent).

STAT OF THE WEEK

Vikings WRs Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have combined for the second-most receiving yards by a wide receiver duo in the NFL this season.

Receiving Yards by WR Duo - 2017 NFL

Rk) WRs, Team, (Combined games played) Rec. Yds.

1) A. Brown/J. Smith-Schuster, PIT, (21) 1,763

2) A. Thielen/S. Diggs, MIN, (20) 1,603

3) J. Jones/M. Sanu, ATL (21) 1,491

VIKINGS-FALCONS CONNECTIONS

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was the defensive coordinator for the Falcons for the 2007 season when the Falcons opened at Minnesota that year.

Falcons tight ends coach Wade Harman spent the 1997 and ’98 seasons as a coaching assistant with the Vikings. Harman was with the Vikings when they lost to the Falcons in the 1998 NFC Championship Game after going 15-1 in the regular season.

Vikings assistant defensive backs coach Jonathan Gannon served as Atlanta’s defensive assistant/quality control coach in 2007.

Falcons FB Derrick Coleman entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Minnesota Vikings in 2012. Coleman was released by the Vikings during final cuts prior to the 2012 regular season.

LOCAL CONNECTIONS

Bob Kronenberg, an area scout for Atlanta, is a St. Cloud State graduate where he earned All-American honors in football and track.

Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon attended Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia, where he earned All-State honors at QB from Atlanta Journal-Constitution and from Georgia Sportswriters. McKinnon attended Georgia Southern from 2010-13.

Falcons OLB De'Vondre Campbell attended the University of Minnesota where he played from 2013-15.

Vikings RB Mack Brown (Clarkston), QB Kyle Sloter (John's Creek) and DE Stephen Weatherly (Snellville) are all Georgia natives.

COLLEGE CONNECTIONS

Vikings RB Mack Brown (2010-14) played at Florida with Falcons DBs Keanu Neal (2013-15) and Brian Poole (2012-15). Falcons head coach Dan Quinn was also at UF from 2011-12.

Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes and Falcons RB Devonta Freeman played at Florida State together from 2011-12.

Vikings DE Danielle Hunter and Falcons LB Deion Jones, RB Terrence Magee and LB Duke Riley were all teammates at LSU.

Vikings DBs Mackensie Alexander and Jayron Kearse were teammates at Clemson with Falcons LB Vic Beasley and DT Grady Jarrett.

Vikings T Mike Remmers and Falcons G Andy Levitre were teammates at Oregon State from 2007-08.

Vikings WRs coach Darrell Hazell was the head coach at Purdue while Falcons S Ricardo Allen played for the Boilermakers in 2013.

Sunday's game features six former UCLA Bruins — Falcons FB Derrick Coleman (2008-11), Falcons DE Takkarist McKinley (2014-16), Vikings LB Anthony Barr (2010-13), Vikings LB Eric Kendricks (2010-14), Vikings K Kai Forbath (2006-10), Vikings LS Kevin McDermott (2008-12).

BIG DAYS

LB Anthony Barr has collected 1.0 sack of Falcons QB Matt Ryan in each of the two previous matchups. During the last contest, Barr forced a career-high two fumbles, including one coming after chasing down RB Tevin Coleman on a 46-yard run and forcing a momentum-changing fumble, which was recovered by the Vikings.

QB Teddy Bridgewater became the third QB in Vikings history to win his first career start after leading the Vikings to 558 yards of offense in a 41-28 win vs. Atlanta (9/28/14). Bridgewater threw for 317 yards and had 27 rushing yards on five carries, including his first career touchdown - a 13-yard run.

RB Jerick McKinnon recorded his first career game with 100-plus rushing yards against his hometown Atlanta Falcons (9/28/14). McKinnon totaled 135 yards on 18 rushes, including a 55-yard run.

DE Brian Robison had his first career sack vs. Atlanta (9/9/07) when he brought down Falcons QB Joey Harrington two times in the contest.

CB Xavier Rhodes tied his career-high with four passes defensed vs. Atlanta (9/28/14). Rhodes added five tackles in the win.

WR Jarius Wright set a career high in receptions (eight) and receiving yards (132) vs. Atlanta (9/28/14).

Anthony Barr 2 games, 14 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 FFs, 1 PD

Everson Griffen 3 games, 5 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 4 QB hits, 2 TFL

Jerick McKinnon 2 games, 23 rushes, 168 yards, 7.3 avg., 1 reception, 17 yards

Latavius Murray 1 game, 8 rushes, 57 yards, 1 TD, 7.1 avg., 6 receptions, 44 yards

Terence Newman 5 games, 26 tackles, 1 INT, 7 PD, 1 FF

Xavier Rhodes 2 games, 7 tackles, 1 TFL, 5 PD

Harrison Smith 1 game, 6 tackles, 1 INT

SERIES INFO

Record vs. Falcons Vikings, 18-11

Last regular season game 2015, Vikings 20, Falcons 10

Vikings largest winning margin 40; Vikings 47, Falcons 7 (1968)

Falcons largest winning margin 20; Falcons 30, Vikings 10 (2005)

Current series streak Vikings, 2

Vikings longest win streak 4, two times (1974-80, 1987-96)

Falcons longest win streak 2, two times (1966-67, 2008-11)

Most Points, Vikings 47, (1968)

Most Points, Falcons 31, (1981)

Most Combined Points 69, Vikings 41, Falcons 28, (2014)

Fewest Points, Vikings 3, (1969)

Fewest Points, Falcons 0, (1975)

Fewest Combined Points 13, Falcons 10, Vikings 3, (1969)

SERIES NOTES

Atlanta beat Minnesota, 30-27, in the 1998 NFC Championship, the only NFC Championship game to be hosted at the Metrodome.

The Purple People Eaters harassed Falcons QB Randy Johnson for nine sacks in a game at Atlanta in 1970, which still stands tied as the most sacks against an opposing QB in team history.

In 1982, the NFL season was reduced to nine weeks due to the 57-day player’s strike. After the regular season, the top eight teams from each conference comprised the Super Bowl Tournament, and Minnesota hosted the Falcons on 1/9/83, the first playoff game in the newly-opened Metrodome - a 30-24 Vikings win.

A WIN WOULD...

Be the best start to a season through 12 games since Mike Zimmer took over in 2014 and the best start for the franchise since starting 10-2 in 2009.

Move Zimmer’s record as a head coach to 36-25 and give him his third win against the Falcons in his third game vs. the franchise.

Would be eighth straight win for the Vikings, tying the longest regular-season win streak for the team under Zimmer (eight games from 12/20/15-10/9/16).

Be the Vikings first victory at the newly-opened Mercedes-Benz Stadium.