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NOTEBOOK: Thielen, Vikings Ready for Speedy Falcons Defense

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings have faced the Seattle Seahawks four times over the past two calendar years and have a familiarity with their defensive scheme.

When Minnesota's offense lines up against the Falcons on Sunday, they'll see something eerily similar.

Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn used to be the defensive coordinator in Seattle, and he brought his style to Atlanta a few years ago.

Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen said Thursday that the Falcons and Seahawks play similar styles, which included a stout zone defense.

"They're dangerous, I think, because they're so fast. Every position, defensive line, linebackers and then their secondary, they're all really fast," Thielen said. "And you see that on film. They fly around to the ball.

"I think for a team to be able to play well and to play zone for a majority of the game, you have to be fast, and you have to be smart football players. And they've been able to do that," Thielen added. "And I think it was a big reason why they were able to go to the Super Bowl last year, because they play really well together. It's another test for us as an offense, and we're excited to prepare for them and play on Sunday." 

Thielen has 70 catches for 1,005 yards and three touchdowns so far this season, and he has found success against man-to-man and zone schemes.

But he said this week that the total team quickness of Atlanta allows them to thrive on defense. Atlanta currently ranks 10th in yards allowed per game (321.8) and is 13th in points allowed per game (20.9).

"I think because you need to cover more space when you're playing zone coverage," Thielen said. "Obviously I'm not a defensive back, but from what I've seen from them, they can cover a lot more space.

"To be able to do that, you have to be quick, you have to be fast and you have to be smart. They do that really well, they play really well together," Thielen added. "I think that's another thing – when you're predominantly zone defense, you have to play really well together and understand where guys are going to be and where your help is coming from."

Thriving on 3rd down

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Sunday's game will come on third down when the Vikings are on defense.

Both teams have been stellar in that area all season.

Minnesota's defense ranks first in the NFL in third-down percentage, as opponents have converted on 39 of 137 attempts (28.5 percent).

The Vikings allowed the Lions to convert on just three of 11 third-down tries last week, and Detroit didn't move the sticks on third down at all in the first half.

Atlanta's offense counters with the league's top third-down team, as the Falcons rank first at 48.1 percent (63 of 131 attempts).

Vikings safety Harrison Smith said he anticipates a chess match during that in-game situation.

"We'll see … I think that will be a fun thing to keep track of," Smith said. "That's big in determining games.

"They're very good, and we've been good, so we'll see who does the best on Sunday," Smith added.

No Trufant for Falcons

Quinn announced Friday that Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant will not play in Sunday's game due to a concussion.

Trufant leads Atlanta with two interceptions and three fumble recoveries, and he has also forced a fumble and recorded a sack.

"He's a good player," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said of Trufant.

"First-round pick, excellent in and out of breaks, competitive."

Zimmer later added: "They've had other guys play in (the secondary), and they've played well."

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