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Vikings at Falcons Game Preview

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings are making their first injury-related quarterback change since 2017 on Sunday.

Fifth-round rookie Jaren Hall will start in place of Kirk Cousins following the 12-year veteran's Achilles injury last week in Green Bay. Hall, 25, made his NFL debut in relief of Cousins and will make his first regular-season start, leading a 4-4 Vikings team riding a three-game winning streak.

The Falcons (4-4) are making their own quarterback change, though not due to injury. On Wednesday, Atlanta Head Coach Arthur Smith named Taylor Heinicke the team's starting quarterback for Sunday.

Vikings at Falcons is one of five games pitting two teams with a .500 record or better against each other. Four teams (Lions, 49ers, Jaguars, and Broncos) have Week 9 byes.

Kickoff is set for noon (CT).

Vikings Uniform

The Vikings will wear their traditional road uniforms with white jerseys and purple pants.

4 Storylines

  1. Enter new quarterbacks

Both teams are playing a different quarterback than they've started all year.

Heinicke, a former Viking who played for Washington against Minnesota in Week 9 last year, entered the Falcons game last week after Ridder had to be evaluated for a concussion. Ridder was cleared to return, but Heinicke finished the game. Heinicke finished 12-for-21 with 175 yards and a touchdown. He led four scoring drives that totaled 20 points, and the Falcons generated 253 yards of offense with him in the game.

Ridder was 8-for-12 with 71 yards and lost a fumble for the fourth time in his last six quarters. He led eight drives, none of which gained more than 29 yards. The Falcons had 89 yards of offense in the half he played. He was sacked twice but said he could not pinpoint the play he was injured.

Ridder also leads the league in giveaways with 12. Sunday will mark Heinicke's 25th NFL career start.

Hall took over for Cousins early in the fourth quarter and quarterbacked the final 11 snaps. He completed three of four throws for 23 yards and successfully protected the Vikings 14-point lead in his two relief possessions.

Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell named Hall the team's Week 9 starter on Tuesday. He took his first-team reps at Wednesday's walk-through.

"It's about doing the little things right around Jaren. Allowing him to feel like he's in a position where he could just go out and do his job that he's been coached to do," O'Connell said. "So it's going to seem like we're getting him ready for his first start, but I really look at it as if we've been doing our jobs then he's been getting ready for this for a while [and] just not knowing when that time would come."

  1. Injuries piling up

Sunday's game won't feature at least three Pro Bowlers due to injury. Cousins is out. Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson will miss his fourth consecutive game after being placed on Injured Reserve following Week 5. Falcons star defensive tackle Grady Jarrett is also out after tearing his ACL last week at Tennessee.

Jarrett is described as "**the heart, soul, and undisputed leader**" of the Falcons defense. The two-time Pro Bowler started all eight games this season, recording 1.5 sacks, eight quarterback hits, and 23 total tackles.

In response to their respective team injuries, the Falcons traded for defensive tackle Kentavius Street, and the Vikings acquired quarterback Joshua Dobbs in a trade with Arizona.

Street, a fifth-year veteran, signed with the Eagles this offseason. He appeared in eight games and recorded four tackles.

Wide receiver Drake London left Sunday's game with a groin injury after making a 21-yard catch in the third quarter and did not return. After the game, he told reporters he'd be "good to go," but the second-year receiver did not practice on Wednesday.

  1. Quickly preparing in case

Dobbs practiced with the Vikings for the first time on Wednesday. O'Connell said Dobbs will prepare as if he is only one play away from becoming the starting quarterback. O'Connell did not commit to who would start after Week 9.

The quick turnaround is nothing new for Dobbs, who was at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center less than 24 hours after being traded by the Arizona Cardinals. He is joining his seventh NFL team (including practice squads) since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He's also been rostered by the Steelers, Jaguars, Browns, Lions and Titans.

Dobbs is the first quarterback to be traded twice within the same season since at least 1994, joining Baker Mayfield (twice). If he starts a game for the Vikings this season, he'll become just the second quarterback since 1950 to start for three different teams in 365 days.

Like Dobbs, Ridder has started every game this season before Week 9. The Falcons selected him in the third round (No. 74) last season. He took over as the starter in Week 15 last year, replacing Marcus Mariota.

  1. Two potential playoff teams

If the playoffs started this week, the Falcons would host a home playoff game, and the Vikings would be the No. 7 seed. Atlanta leads the NFC South, while Minnesota is two games behind the Lions for second place in the NFC North.

Week 9 is the halfway point of the season, though the NFL expanded to an 18-week regular season two years ago. A lot can and likely will change over the next nine weeks, but both the Falcons and Vikings are legitimate playoff contenders.

3 Things 'Bout the Falcons

  1. *Committed to the run: *The Falcons average 30 rushing attempts per game, tied for sixth most. Rookie running back Bijan Robinson scored his first rushing touchdown on a 13-yard run in the fourth quarter last week. He is only the second player in Falcons franchise history to record at least 650 scrimmage yards through eight career games.

Robinson is one of the league's most talented ball carriers. He's a threat out of the backfield and as a receiver. The Falcons also prominently feature running back Tyler Allgeier. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season. This year, his 332 rushing yards ranks 27th. Robinson is ninth in rushing with 466 yards.

  1. Highly drafted pass catchers:London leads the team with 438 receiving yards. Atlanta selected him No. 8 overall in 2022. He finished third in yards among rookie receivers last season with 866, behind Jet Garrett Wilson and Saint Chris Olave.

Tight end Kyle Pitts ranks ninth in tight end receiving yards. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound mismatch creator is the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history. The Falcons selected him No. 4 overall in the 2021 draft.

  1. Reshaped defense: The Falcons signed several key contributors to its defense during free agency last season. David Onyemata, Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree anchor a Falcons defense that ranks sixth in yards allowed.

First-year Defensive Coordinator Ryan Nielsen has quickly reshaped a Falcons defense that ranked toward the bottom of the league in most categories last season.

In the secondary, the Falcons added former No. 3 pick Jeff Okudah at cornerback. He plays opposite standout fourth-year cornerback A.J. Terrell. Safeties Richie Grant and Jessie Bates III lead the team in defensive snaps.

Bates signed a lucrative $64 million deal with Atlanta during free agency.

2 Trends

Flores' defense flowing

The Vikings have held three consecutive opponents to fewer than 20 points. Teams are averaging 13.3 points per game over that stretch against the defense.

Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores has the Vikings playing fast and multiple. Minnesota averages about two takeaways per game over their last three contests, which ranks eighth.

Defensive end Danielle Hunter leads the NFL in sacks with 10 and tackles for loss with 12.

Jordan Addison keeps scoring

Rookie receiver Jordan Addison joined elite company on Sunday. He became the sixth player in the Super Bowl era to catch their seventh touchdown in eight NFL games.

Addison has emerged as a trusted weapon within the Vikings offense. He has scored in every game in which Jefferson hasn't played.

1 Talking Point

"I think that it's very easy to go down that path and start thinking about that, but lucky for me, coaches are constantly reminding me just to focus on this day, focus on walk-through, this practice, this install – whatever it is. It's a long career in the NFL. It's a marathon, it's a journey. So you can't look at one game or one opportunity like it's your last. So for me, I'm just focused on being as prepared as I can for these guys because they've grinded so much these last few weeks and come back from so much adversity, that I just want to do my best to focus on this game."

— Hall on his upcoming NFL debut


In addition to Heinicke, the Falcons roster also includes former Vikings receiver/return specialist Cordarrelle Patterson, cornerback Mike Hughes, tight end MyCole Pruitt and offensive linemen Storm Norton and Kyle Hinton.

Atlanta Assistant Head Coach/Defense Jerry Gray coached Minnesota defensive backs from 2014-19.

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Series History

The Vikings hold a 20-12 record all-time against the Falcons (1-1 in postseason games). Minnesota is 8-7 when visiting Atlanta and has gone 6-2 (in three different venues) there since 1991.