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After Further Review: 3rd Downs Critical on Game-Winning Drive in Atlanta

After Further Review is a deeper look at plays or stats after Vikings games…

The Vikings went up for good on the first play of the fourth quarter Sunday against the Falcons in Atlanta.

Kyle Rudolph's long arms and big paws secured a throw on a post route from Case Keenum for a 6-yard score and a 14-9 lead that Minnesota protected the rest of the way with continued dominance by the defense and an offense that controlled the clock.

The go-ahead touchdown ended a 15-play, 89-yard drive that lasted 8:15.

The Vikings converted all three third downs they faced during the possession by implementing a pair of short throws and a run by Latavius Murray. Keenum had ample time on both passes, and Murray had room to hit his stride at the line of scrimmage thanks to Minnesota's offensive line.

Here's another look at those three conversions:


Q3, 4:26 remaining — Third-and-3 at the Atlanta 44

The Vikings have moved from their own 11-yard line into Falcons territory by avoiding negative plays and gaining 19 on a play that Keenum extended before finding Stefon Diggs.

Facing their first third down of the drive, the Vikings go with Keenum in the shotgun and running back Jerick McKinnon to his right, along with receivers Laquon Treadwell (on the line of scrimmage) and Adam Thielen (behind Treadwell) on the right, and Diggs on the left, outside of tight end Kyle Rudolph.

Diggs and Treadwell run shallow crossing routes, Thielen and Rudolph run deeper down the field, and McKinnon releases on a route.

The Falcons only rush with four players. Diggs slips coming out of his break but stays with it and takes Robert Alford across the field. Alford has help from safety Keanu Neal but continues to pursue Diggs.

Keenum slides to his left, finding Treadwell to his left and putting the ball on the money. Cornerback C.J. Goodwin comes up the field from more of a safety position and commits to the outside. He slips as Treadwell secures the throw to the inside of the field, allowing the second-year receiver to gain 7 yards after catching the ball a yard shy of the sticks.


Q3, 2:55 remaining — Third-and-3 at the Atlanta 28

Keenum is again in the shotgun and sends McKinnon out to the slot before the snap. Diggs is out on the right, Jarius Wright is in the right slot, Rudolph is lined up off the line inside of Wright, and Thielen is on the outside left.

Rudolph chips edge rusher Vic Beasley before releasing on a route as Atlanta again rushes four players. Rudolph is being covered by linebacker De'Vondre Campbell on the play, and safety Ricardo Allen is covering Wright.

The Falcons double team Thielen, showing respect for all of the success he's had on third downs this season.

Wright cuts under Campbell, who tracks Rudolph but inadvertently makes Allen work extra to stay with Wright on the receiver's path to the middle of the field.

Wright smartly sets up shop just beyond the yard-to-gain, and Keenum zips a dart.


Q3, :53 remaining — Third-and-1 at the Atlanta 15

In this third-and-short, the Vikings go with a bigger personnel grouping by bringing in fullback C.J. Ham and tight end Blake Bell, along with Rudolph, Murray and Thielen.

The Vikings line up in an offset I-formation, and Keenum hands the ball to Murray.

Right tackle Rashod Hill blocks Dontari Poe to Hill's right, and right guard Joe Berger drives Ahtyba Rubin to Berger's left, creating ample running room for Murray to utilize a cutback and make safety Kemal Ismael pay for edging his way too far to the middle of the field.

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