Final Score: Atlanta 24, Minnesota 14
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Matt Ryan threw his third touchdown pass in the
fourth quarter to give Atlanta some cushion, and the Falcons defense followed
with a goal-line stand to secure a 24-14 victory over the Vikings on Sunday.
"Did we make it exciting enough for you?" Atlanta head coach Mike Smith said.
Ryan completed 27-of-34 passes for 262 yards to help the Falcons (7-4) stay in
the thick of the NFC South race. They entered Sunday a game behind the New
Orleans Saints, who host the New York Giants on Monday night.
Atlanta got off to a dominant start against Minnesota, racing out to a 17-0
But Christian Ponder and the Vikings' offense overcame that slow start to get
back into the game. He completed a long touchdown pass early in the fourth
quarter to Percy Harvin, who also nearly returned a kickoff for a touchdown
after Ryan's scoring pass to Michael Palmer had given the Falcons a 24-14
advantage with 6:40 to play.
Harvin reached the Atlanta three-yard line on the return, but the Falcons
stopped Toby Gerhart on 4th-and-goal from the one to send the Vikings (2-9) to
their third consecutive loss.
Gerhart finished with 44 yards on 17 carries, running in place of the injured
Adrian Peterson, who missed the game with a high ankle sprain.
"It doesn't feel good. It's getting repetitive but I have to say I am proud of
this team," Ponder said of the loss. "They played for four quarters. Our
offense didn't really show up in the first half and we've really got to show
up for the whole four quarters."
Minnesota started to erase the halftime deficit with its second possession
after the break. Ponder converted three third downs during the drive -- one
with a five-yard scramble, another with a short pass to Allen Reisner, and the
last with a 20-yard strike to Harvin.
The long pass preceded Gerhart's one-yard run across the goal line, which
capped the nearly eight-minute possession.
Minnesota was forced to punt on its next touch, but caught a break when
Falcons returner Dominique Franks muffed the catch. The Vikings recovered at
the Atlanta 36 and reached the end zone again in four plays.
The drive didn't get off to an auspicious start. Vikings tight end Jim
Kleinsasser was called for a false start, and they ended up facing a 4th-
and-13 after Ponder's short completion to Gerhart was overturned.
But Ponder bounced back by hitting Harvin in the end zone for a 39-yard
touchdown. Harvin simply sprinted up the field, past every Falcons defender in
his coverage area, and made the reception, which was upheld upon review.
The touchdown brought the Vikings within 17-14 with 13:13 still to play.
But Atlanta restored some of its control with a touchdown drive later in the
quarter. The big play was a 23-yard pass from Ryan to Roddy White, who was
pushed out of bounds at the Minnesota seven. It converted a third down and
helped set up Ryan's TD pass to Palmer on the left side of the field.
The dangerous Harvin fielded the kickoff and squeezed between several sets of
defenders as he raced up the field, though it was more like he was too fast
for the Falcons' special teams players to get a hand on him.
Only Christopher Owens was able to catch Harvin with a diving tackle at the
three. But Ponder was then sacked for a two-yard loss before Harvin ran twice
for four yards. Gerhart got the ball up the middle, but was stopped by Sean
Falcons defensive end Lawrence Sidbury said their goal line stand "speaks
volumes about our defense."
"Christopher Owens exploded through the back side and made a tackle at the
three-yard line that gave our defense a chance to make stops," he said. "That
motivated the whole defense to bear down and win the game for our team."
Atlanta ran out the final 4:16 to cement the close game, which began like it
would be a Falcons blowout. They scored on three of their five possessions in
the first half, and forced the Vikings to punt four times.
Ryan found Harry Douglas for a 27-yard TD with 6:08 left in the first quarter,
and his six-yard scoring pass to White in the back of the end zone made it a
14-0 game with 4:04 remaining in the half.
Atlanta got the ball back with two minutes remaining after the Vikings went
three-and-out, and got in position for a 37-yard field goal by Matt Bryant.
The Falcons held a 207-97 advantage in total yards during the first half, and
335-226 for the game...Ponder completed 17-of-25 passes for 186 yards...White
had 10 receptions for 120 yards. It was his first 10-catch game of the season,
and third 100-yard performance.
11/27 18:22:12 ET
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