Vikings snap back after loss, get back atop NFC Central
ATLANTA (AP) The Minnesota Vikings made sure one loss didn't lead to another.
Now, just like that, they're back on top in the NFC Central.
Adrian Peterson rushed for 158 yards and two touchdowns, while the Minnesota defense picked off Matt Ryan two times and kept the Atlanta Falcons out of the end zone until garbage time in a 20-10 victory Sunday.
One week after a discouraging loss to division rival Green Bay, the Vikings (8-3) reclaimed sole possession of first place. They're one game ahead of the Packers, who lost to Chicago on Thanksgiving night.
''This team is nowhere near where we need to be,'' Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said, ''but this team has a lot of fighters on it.''
Peterson bounced back from a 45-yard performance against the Packers, which included a crucial fourth-quarter fumble that thwarted any hopes of a comeback.
''It's nice to get this bounce-back win,'' he said. ''We took it personal as an offense.''
The Vikings jumped ahead on Peterson's 1-yard touchdown run in the opening quarter. They clinched it when their star running back got loose on a 35-yard scamper down the sideline with 4:15 remaining in the game.
Atlanta (6-5) lost for the fifth time in six games, including four straight defeats. The Falcons are in danger of becoming one of the rare teams to miss the playoffs after starting 5-0, falling into a tie with Seattle for the second wild card.
With running back Devonta Freeman sidelined by a concussion, Atlanta was held to 329 yards, its second-lowest output of the season, and even that was a bit misleading. The Falcons tacked on 79 yards with their final possession, finally scoring a meaningless touchdown with 1:28 remaining on Ryan's 1-yard touchdown pass to Nick Williams.
''Our sense of urgency isn't where it needs to be,'' receiver Roddy White said. ''We're not physically beating up people like we did at the beginning of the season.''
The Falcons also need Ryan to snap out of his slump. He's thrown five interceptions the last two weeks, and the second one Sunday was especially devastating.
After Tevin Coleman's go-ahead touchdown run was wiped out by a penalty, Ryan was picked off in the end zone by Terence Newman.
Here are some other things to take away from Minnesota's victory over the Falcons:
AP MOVING UP: Peterson's sixth 100-yard game of the season pushed him up three places on the NFL's career rushing list. He is 18th with 11,354 yards, passing O.J. Simpson (11,236), Corey Dillon (11,241) and John Riggins (11,352). Next up: Steven Jackson with 11,388. ''I just come in and try to focus on doing my job and helping my team win,'' Peterson said. ''I'll be able to look at those things after the fact.''
BARR NONE: Second-year linebacker Anthony Barr is becoming quite a force for the Vikings. He made a huge strip on Coleman at the end of a 46-yard run, punching the ball away for a fumble that was recovered by Antone Exum. On Atlanta's last gasp, Barr leveled Ryan on fourth-and-1, knocking the ball away again to give possession to the Vikings. ''I really think the sky is the limit for the guy,'' Zimmer said. ''There are so many things we can do with him.''
STOPPING JULIO: The Vikings shut down Falcons star Julio Jones, who was held to five catches for 56 yards, the longest a 19-yarder. Jones had a streak of three straight 100-yard games and was averaging 118.9 yards per game. Only once this season has he been held to fewer receiving yards.
MATTY PICKS: Ryan made an extremely poor decision for the second week in a row. Against Indianapolis, he was totally fooled out of his own end zone, throwing a pass that was intercepted and returned 6 yards for a touchdown. This time, on third-and-goal from the 14, he forced a pass to Jacob Tamme that had no chance of being completed, resulting in Newman's pick. ''You want to make plays,'' Ryan said. ''But that was neither the time nor the place.''
DOWN GOES DURANT … AGAIN: Justin Durant was one of Atlanta's major free-agent acquisitions, but a history of injuries has followed the linebacker to the Falcons. He went out in the first half with an ankle injury and didn't return. He already had missed three games this season because of various ailments.
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- Adrian Peterson
- Anthony Barr
- Atlanta Falcons
- Devonta Freeman
- Jacob Tamme
- Julio Jones
- Justin Durant
- Matt Ryan
- Mike Zimmer
- Minnesota Vikings
- Nick Williams
- Roddy White
- Steven Jackson
- Terence Newman