MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings fell for the third time of 2020 at fan-less U.S. Bank Stadium, suffering a 40-23 loss to the previously winless Falcons.
Minnesota won the coin toss, but not much else the rest of the way.
Head Coach Mike Zimmer opted to take the ball, but quarterback Kirk Cousins was picked off by linebacker Deion Jones on the first snap of the game.
Cousins threw into coverage while trying to target rookie Justin Jefferson, and Jones returned the ball to the Minnesota 29-yard line
The Falcons took the gifted field position and quickly took the lead, scoring on a 20-yard pass from Matt Ryan to Julio Jones on a third-and-11 for a 7-0 lead with 12:02 remaining in the first quarter.
It wasn't very close the rest of the way.
The Falcons added a field goal and then stopped Minnesota with a goal-line stand early in the second quarter.
Atlanta controlled the first half, becoming the first team to intercept Cousins three times in one half, and controlling the football for 20:29 and building a 20-margin by halftime.
The Falcons were 5-for-8 on third downs in the opening half and limited the Vikings to zero conversions on four attempts.
Atlanta finished 9-for-17 on third downs and allowed just three conversions on 10 tries by Minnesota.
The Falcons out-gained the Vikings 462 to 365 and possessed the ball a whopping 40:07.
Minnesota tried to rally, but Atlanta scored touchdowns of 40 and 35 yards on fourth downs in the second half, taking away any opportunity for a Vikings comeback.
Jefferson led Minnesota with nine catches for 166 yards and two scores. He now has 537 receiving yards, which is a record for a Vikings rookie in his first six games (topped 527 by Randy Moss and 507 by Stefon Diggs).
Cousins finished 24-of-36 passing for 343 yards with three touchdowns and three costly pics.
Ryan completed 30 of 40 passes for 371 yards with four touchdowns and no turnovers. His passer rating was 136.6.
Q1, 12:02 remaining
Falcons 7, Vikings 0
Julio Jones catches a 20-yard pass from Matt Ryan (Younghoe Koo kicks PAT) [5 plays, 29 yards, 2:41 time of possession]
Mr. 3*rd* down: It's now surprised that Ryan targeted Jones on third-and-11. The receiver entered the game with 86 receptions on third downs since 2017, the third-most in the NFL.
Q1, 3:02 remaining
Falcons 10, Vikings 0
Koo kicks a 50-yard field goal [13 plays, 54 yards, 6:51 time of possession]
Defensive stop: The Vikings defense was able to rally after Atlanta converted a fourth-and-1. Rookie D.J. Wonnum recorded a tackle of running back Brian Hill for a 2-yard loss on second-and-5, and Eric Kendricks followed by tackling Hill for no gain on the run play that followed.
Q2, 1:54 remaining
Falcons 17, Vikings 0
Calvin Ridley catches an 8-yard pass from Ryan (Koo kicks PAT) [7 plays, 40 yards, 3:52 time of possession]
Ahead of the chains: The Falcons stayed ahead of the chains after opening at the Minnesota 40-yard line. Atlanta faced a third down just once during the drive and gained 4 when it needed 3 via a pass to Jones.
Q2, 0:01 remaining
Falcons 20, Vikings 0
Koo kicks a 21-yard field goal [9 plays, 46 yards, 1:05 time of possession]
Goal-line stand: Minnesota allowed a pair of 17-yard gains on completions to Russell Gage and Todd Gurley II but rallied in a goal-to-go situation, forcing an incompletion on first down and getting a tackle after a gain of 2 on second down.
Q3, 10:45 remaining
Falcons 23, Vikings 0
Koo kicks a 47-yard field goal [10 plays, 56 yards, 4:15 time of possession]
Third-and-3s: The Falcons moved into Koo's range by converting a pair of third-and-3s. The first was a 27-yard completion to Gage against rookie Jeff Gladney, and the second was a 6-yard pass to tight end Hayden Hurst.
Q3, 6:25 remaining
Falcons 23, Vikings 7
Justin Jefferson catches an 11-yard pass from Cousins (Dan Bailey kicks PAT) [9 plays, 75 yards, 4:20 time of possession]
Stretch Armstrong: Jefferson powered through a tackle and stretched the ball across the goal
Q3, 2:01 remaining
Falcons 30, Vikings 7
Jones catches a 40-yard pass from Ryan (Koo kicks PAT) [8 plays, 69 yards, 4:24 time of possession
Scramble drill: Ryan eluded pressure from Eric Kendricks outside of the pocket and winged a prayer of sorts to Jones, who capitalized after Gladney fell down and converted the fourth-and-3 into a score to essentially put the game away.
Q4, 7:07 remaining
Falcons 33, Vikings 7
Koo kicks a 43-yard field goal [8 plays, 42 yards, 3:33 time of possession]
Drive starter: The Falcons gained 31 on a back-shoulder throw to Jones to begin the drive.
Q4, 3:58 remaining
Falcons 33, Vikings 15
Adam Thielen catches a 2-yard pass from Cousins (Cousins completes conversion pass to Irv Smith, Jr.) [8 plays, 75 yards, 3:09 time of possession]
Back at it: Thielen quickly returned to the game and caught his seventh score of the season four plays after he was shaken up when landing with the ball on a 35-yard reception.
Q4, 2:11 remaining
Falcons 40, Vikings 15
Hurst catches a 35-yard pass from Ryan (Koo kicks PAT) [4 plays, 44 yards, 1:07 time of possession]
Sneaky route: On fourth-and-1, Hurst lined up tight and snuck just on the other side of the line of scrimmage behind Minnesota's defenders. No one followed him, giving Ryan and easy throw and Hurst a light jog to the end zone.
Q4, 1:26 remaining
Falcons 40, Vikings 23
Jefferson catches a 49-yard pass from Cousins (Cousins completes conversion pass to Jefferson) [3 plays, 80 yards, 0:45 time of possession]
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Falcons on Sunday.