The Vikings entered Sunday's game knowing they would need to contain four-time Pro Bowler Julio Jones, and they couldn't have done it much better.
Minnesota's defense held Jones to two catches for 24 yards en route to a 14-9 win at Atlanta to move to 10-2 on the season.
Jones was well-covered throughout the game, prompting just six targets from quarterback Matt Ryan on an afternoon one week removed from Jones' 253-yard performance against the Buccaneers. The receiver's first catch didn't occur until four minutes into the second quarter, when he dove for a low ball to move the chains 13 yards.
Xavier Rhodes covered Jones a significant amount of the game, which marked the third time the two have matched up against one another since 2014.
"That was the goal; the goal was just to try to stop him," Rhodes said following the game. "Julio is going to get his catches [and they try to feature him], and we were just aware of it. I wasn't on him all game, I was on him 90 percent of the game. But when I wasn't, we still covered him well."
Rhodes said it was a team effort to keep Jones from being a factor.
"Sometimes there's 1-on-1, sometimes I had help," Rhodes said. "With a guy like that, he's pretty good. He's great, man. He's one of the best in the league. So you have to do what you need to do to win the game."
Partway through the third quarter, Jones was able to break away from Rhodes on first-and-10, and safety Andrew Sendejo made a play at the sideline to break up a big pass from Ryan.
"The receiver ran away from me … and he broke it up. [Jones] was open, and 'Dejo helped me," Rhodes said. "Stuff like that, you need your teammates when you're guessing on one route and your teammates are backing you up."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was pleased with the way his defense worked together as a whole.
"Xavier did a great job, but all of our guys in the back end today did a great job; you know, Trae [Waynes] and the safeties," Zimmer said of the Vikings success against Jones. "We very rarely will say, 'Hey, you've got him,' and it's just the way we felt like we had to play to win this football game. We know how good of a player he is and how talented he is, and it's important [that] we try to take away some of the opponents' strengths each week."
Minnesota did not allow 50 yards to any Atlanta receiver. Mohamed Sanu led the way with three catches for 43 yards, while the next closest was Tevin Coleman, who added 27 yards through the air in addition to 22 rushing yards.
Rhodes also said that the defense "made it a point" not to let the Falcons into the end zone.
A week after Jones' two touchdown outing, he – along with the rest of the Falcons – was held scoreless for four quarters. Minnesota forced Atlanta to punt four times and held them to field goal attempts on the other four possessions. Matt Bryant's fourth field goal attempt, a 45-yarder, missed wide left.
Rhodes said the offense and defense fed off each other throughout the afternoon.
"The energy is out there, you can tell," Rhodes said. "Once we get a stop, the offense goes out there, and they make plays. Once the offense scores a touchdown, we go out there and feed off that energy, and we make big plays – get them off on third downs, a turnover, something. We just feed off each others' energy. That's a definition of a team."