This week's Ticketmaster Hot Matchup takes a close look at Atlanta's high-flying passing attack and one of the Vikings main weapons in trying to bring that attack back down to earth.
Through three games, the Falcons lead the NFL in passing yards (1,001) and yards per attempt (8.9), and they rank fourth in passing touchdowns (seven) and fifth in completions (79). The trigger man in this aerial display is QB Matt Ryan, while the acrobatics are provided by receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White. Together in 2014, Jones and White have combined for 33 receptions for 479 yards and four touchdowns.
"Roddy White was there when I was there and he's an excellent receiver, Pro Bowl guy," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. "Julio Jones has looked outstanding to me – big, physical, strong runner. They've got several guys that can create mismatches and problems for you. We're going to have to pick our spots and be smart."
White missed last week's game against Tampa Bay and has missed some practice time this week, so his status for Sunday's game remains a question. What's unquestionable is Jones' talent and the fact that he's emerging as the top threat in the Falcons offense. Over his last 16 games, Jones has 113 receptions for 1,648 yards and 12 touchdowns, and in in the last seven games Matt Ryan has completed 56 of 81 (69.1%) passes targeted for Jones. Also, Jones is the first player in NFL history to with a touchdown catch of 80+ yards in each of his first three seasons.
For the Vikings, S Harrison Smith will lead the charge in trying to neutralize this passing attack. Smith has been all over the field for the Vikings in 2014. He ranks second on the team with 25 tackles, and has also recorded four pass breakups, 1.0 sack and one interception. His diverse skill set will be key for Head Coach Mike Zimmer and Defensive Coordinator George Edwards as they devise schemes and coverages to contend with Jones, White and Co.
Harrison Smith Quick Hitters-- Smith is tied for the franchise record with three career INT-return touchdowns
-- Smith's 81-yard interception-return touchdown in Week 1 is the longest such return in the NFL this season
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