ATLANTA -- The Vikings' win streak is at eight games. They're on the verge of their second NFC North title in three years. And in a commanding performance against the defending NFC champions on the road, their defense continued to make the case it can take them a long ways.
The Vikings' 14-9 win over the Atlanta Falcons featured no sacks of Matt Ryan, and no defensive takeaways, but Mike Zimmer warns his players not to live by those things, anyway. Instead, the Vikings stifled the Falcons at every turn, holding a record-breaking offense to just 278 yards.
Their victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday moved the Vikings to 10-2, assuring them of at least a one-game margin on the three teams chasing them for the NFC's second first-round bye. The Vikings have beaten two of those teams (the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams) already, and will travel to Carolina to face the Panthers next Sunday.
If they're able to pass the final test of their three-game road trip, they'll be greeted by two home games in the season's final three weeks, as well as a trip to Green Bay for a game against a Packers team that might not have enough at stake to justify Aaron Rodgers' return.
The Vikings put themselves in such an enviable position with another strong defensive showing on Sunday. They held the Falcons -- the NFL's best third-down team -- to one conversion on 10 attempts, as Xavier Rhodes essentially took Julio Jones out of the game.
A week after he'd posted 253 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jones caught just one of his four targets for 13 yards through the game's first 50 minutes, as the Vikings forced Matt Ryan to subsist on short passes to his tight ends and running backs instead of the crossing routes he's used to great effect in recent years.
The Falcons' best chance to take a late lead came when they drove 38 yards to the Vikings' 33 with 6:08 left. But Rhodes stopped Tevin Coleman for no gain on first down, Ryan's pass was too high for Jones on second down and the Falcons had to settle for a six-yard completion to Taylor Gabriel on third down.
Rather than going for it on fourth-and-4, Falcons coach Dan Quinn opted for a 45-yard Matt Bryant field goal attempt with 5:04 left, but the kick sailed wide left and the Vikings were able to seal the game on the following drive.
Case Keenum was efficient all day against the Falcons' defense, completing 25 of his 30 passes for 227 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
(c)2017 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at www.startribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.