The Vikings are fresh off their eighth consecutive win, which they accomplished in a significant NFC matchup against the Falcons Sunday.
NFL.com's Chris Wesseling highlighted Minnesota's performance in its second of three consecutive road games, saying that quarterback Case Keenum "stayed hot" in his ninth game – and eighth start – for the Vikings. Wesseling wrote:
*When you turn on the game film, Falcons [Defensive Coordinator] Marquand Manuel emphasized to the FOX broadcast team, you would think you're playing against one of the NFL's best quarterbacks in Keenum. Bolstered by a chain-moving ground attack and quality pass protection, the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Month orchestrated to near perfection a conservative game plan, connecting on all  of his second-half pass attempts on the road against a quality opponent. *
It's long past time to stop thinking of Keenum as a liability bound to be exposed down the stretch. The journeyman quarterback has exhibited masterful pocket movement while avoiding back-breaking mistakes, keeping Minnesota in the hunt for the NFC's top playoff seed.
Wesseling also emphasized the battle between Minnesota's top-ranked third-down defense against Atlanta's No. 1 third down-offense. He said the results were "lopsided (1 of 10) in favor of [Vikings Head Coach] Mike Zimmer's troops."
The Falcons shot themselves in the foot with penalties all afternoon, continually putting Matt Ryan in third-and-long situations against a hard-charging pass rush that forced quick throws. The Vikings took away Julio Jones and the deep ball, smothering an offense that had been humming to the tune of a 66 percent conversion rate on third downs over the past few weeks.
Vikings 'pass test,' demonstrate 'winning formula'
Zimmer has instilled a "one week at a time" mentality in his team, and it's paid off as Minnesota continues to rack up wins.
And while the team is careful not to look too far ahead, Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN.com took a forward look at the playoffs and said the Vikings 14-9 defeat of the Falcons showed "they have a blueprint for postseason success."* *
Zulgad said that Minnesota "did far more than win a game" at Atlanta. He wrote:
The first game in which one believed the Vikings might face a major test came two weeks ago, when they played host to the upstart Los Angeles Rams. Both teams entered with 7-2 records, and when the Rams scored on their opening drive, it appeared the Vikings might be in trouble. It was the last time you got that feeling as the Vikings scored 24 unanswered points.
Four days later, the Vikings won 30-23 on Thanksgiving Day at Detroit in the start of a three-game road trip. That led to the Vikings latest big test: A matchup against the defending NFC champion Falcons, who had scored 95 points in winning three in a row.
*The Vikings defense might be one of the best in the NFL but they were about to be tested. As they have done all season, they passed the test without a problem. *
Zulgad also praised Keenum and the Vikings offense and said that the formula used "felt like exactly what they are going to need to do in the playoffs."
Defense is the starting point for any success this team is going to have come January; Keenum and the offense need to do their part, but their most important job will be playing smart, not committing any turnovers and holding onto the ball for as long as possible to keep the defense fresh.
The 2017 Vikings are 'warriors on the road'
In his post-game media session on Sunday, Zimmer told reporters that the Vikings have always believed in themselves but as the wins build, so does the confidence.
On Monday morning, *Post Bulletin *reporter Guy Limbeck wrote that Minnesota is continuing to "send a strong message to the rest of the NFL." He pointed out that the Vikings have eight straight wins for the first time since the 1998 season and have claimed five consecutive road games for the first since 1974. Limbeck wrote:
The Vikings should believe in themselves. Over the past eight games, they have won in all manners. They've beaten good teams, bad teams, high-scoring teams, defensive teams. They've won at home, on the road, on foreign soil. They've taken on all comers, with six of those eight teams being firmly in or still battling in the playoff chase.
The entire Vikings Nation should believe in this defense, which is among the top few in the league. The Falcons entered Sunday's game on a three-game winning streak and their offense was in high gear. The Vikings didn't generate a turnover or get a sack, and they still held the Falcons to a paltry three field goals.