Keenum sends Vikings to eighth straight win
ATLANTA — The Minnesota Vikings shut down Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons to stretch their winning streak to eight games on Sunday.
Case Keenum threw two short touchdown passes and the Vikings held the Falcons to three field goals in a 14-9 victory.
Keenum, the NFC Player of the Month for November, completed 25-of-30 passes for 227 yards as the Vikings improved to 10-2 and all but locked up first place in the NFC North.
“We’ve got a good team that fought today,” Keenum said. “Converting in the red zone for touchdowns and then holding them to field goals. It was a really good team win.”
Jones, blanked by cornerback Xavier Rhodes, had just two catches for 24 yards a week after torching Tampa Bay for 253 yards and two touchdowns on 12 catches.
“Offensively today we were just missing,” Jones said. “Our defense played great.”
Matt Bryant kicked his third field goal, a 47-yarder, early in the third quarter to put Atlanta (7-5) ahead, but the Vikings drove 89 yards in 15 plays, with Keenum hitting tight end Kyle Rudolph for a 6-yard score on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“We had our work cut out for us and I think the offensive line knew that coming in,” Keenum said. “They did a great job.”
The Vikings ran out the clock after Bryant pulled a 45-yard field-goal attempt wide left with five minutes remaining.
The Falcons elected to go for the field goal on fourth-and-4 from the 28-yard line rather than try for the lead on a touchdown.
Minnesota was 6-for-12 on third-down conversions, while the Falcons were 1-of-10.
“Third down was the key,” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said. “Our inability to convert and get stops turned out to be the difference.”
The Vikings led 7-6 at halftime as the Falcons had to settle for field goals of 38 and 36 yards by Bryant after two long first-half drives.
“We were in a lot of third-and-longs. Those are hard to convert,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “We’ve got to do a better job on first and second down.”
Keenum connected with running back Jerick McKinnon for a 2-yard score to cap a Minnesota drive in the second quarter that featured a 30-yard run by Latavius Murray.
“We had to grind it out,” McKinnon said. “Our two long drives ate up a lot of clock and got his two touchdowns. It was a tough game, but drives like that are what champions are made of.”
The Vikings lead Detroit and Green Bay, both 6-6, by four games with four games remaining in the regular season.
Ryan was 16-of-29 for 173 yards, misconnecting on throws to Jones four times.
“We’ve got to flush this one out of our system,” Ryan said.
NOTES: The Falcons were without two of their top five defensive backs, with CB Desmond Trufant (concussion) and nickel back Brian Poole (lower back) hurt last week in the victory over Tampa Bay. ... CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson started in place of Trufant, while FS Ricardo Allen filled in for Poole and rookie S Damontae Kazee took Allen’s spot when needed. ... Falcons RB Devonta Freeman (concussion) returned after missing two games and had 74 yards rushing on 12 carries. ... Falcons LG Andy Levitre suffered a triceps injury in the first quarter. ... Vikings RT Mike Remmers (concussion/back) missed his fourth straight game, with T Rashod Hill again starting in his place. ... Vikings TE David Morgan left early in the first quarter and was diagnosed with a concussion. ... The Falcons play New Orleans on Thursday night in their third straight home game. ... The Vikings are on the road for the third straight week next Sunday, playing at Carolina.