Notebook: Vikings find unlikely heroes

The Vikings were missing several offensive starters, but Jarius Wright and Jerick McKinnon stepped up strong. Plus, get more than 20 notes that help tell the story of the game.

For those unfamiliar with the 2014 Vikings, Sunday’s 41-28 win may have seemed more like a sequel to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, where the recurring theme was summed up by the phrase, “Who are those guys?”

With a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start, a rookie running back who had 7 yards in the first three games topping 100 yards and a third-year wide receiver who had only one game with 70 or more receiving yards hitting the century mark by halftime, the Vikings had Falcons fans scratching their heads and repeating the same question throughout the game.

“Who are those guys?”

Coming into Sunday, Jarius Wright had only caught three passes for 37 yards. But from the start of training camp he was working with the second-unit offense and taking a lot of reps with Teddy Bridgewater, who, until last week, was the No. 2 QB on the depth chart.

“Me and Bridgewater have got a lot of reps together,” said Wright, who caught eight passes for 132 yards. “It was really big for me. Me personally, I knew I had it in me to come out here and show it to everybody. I wouldn’t say it was a must-win, but it was a big win for us today. For me to come out here and show what I could do today was real big for me.”

Matt Asiata was the early workhorse in the backfield, finishing the game with 20 carries for 78 yards and three touchdowns, but it was a tag-team effort with McKinnon, who carried 18 times for 135 yards to give the Vikings some thunder and lightning in the backfield.

“We just got to punch them in the mouth every time we came out,” Asiata said. “It’s fun when we execute and communicate on the field, when we get to move the ball down the field. That’s what we’re trying to do. It’s all in the system.”

For McKinnon, he had no way of knowing his workload was going to be so extensive. In the first three games of the season, he had only run the ball five times and gained just 7 yards. After breaking off a 55-yard run on his first carry, the decision was made to give him more opportunities and he made the most of it – rushing 18 times for 135 yards – even though he wasn’t expecting to get so much usage.

“I definitely didn’t imagine it or think of it,” McKinnon said of his breakout performance. “But you know things worked out thanks to our offensive line and receivers.”

A lot of observers felt the Vikings had little to no chance against the powerful Falcons if their offense was running at full speed, much less without Adrian Peterson, Matt Cassel, Kyle Rudolph and Brandon Fusco – all Week 1 starters that weren’t in uniform.

Any more performances like that and nobody will be asking, “Who are those guys?” They will already know.


  • The Vikings had their greatest offensive output of the season by far, putting up 558 total yards – 317 passing and 241 rushing. They entered the game with 819 yards in the first three games combined.

  • Asiata had three rushing touchdowns Sunday. He became just third Viking to accomplish that feat twice in a career, joining Chuck Foreman and Peterson.

  • If there was a downside Sunday, it was the inability of the Vikings defense to get off the field. The defense allowed Atlanta to convert 10 of 15 third-down attempts, including too many third-and-long plays that typically aren’t converted.

  • Bridgewater wasn’t sacked and only took one legitimate hit behind the line of scrimmage.

  • Atlanta only got into the red zone once. The Vikings got into the red zone six times and came away with four touchdowns.

  • Blair Walsh not only scored 11 points, giving him 20 in the last two games, six of his nine kickoffs were touchbacks.

  • Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson combined to be targeted just eight times, catching five passes for 110 yards. Wright was targeted 10 times, catching eight of those for 132 yards.

  • The Vikings had twice as many rushing attempts (44) as the Falcons (22).

  • The Vikings’ four rushing TDs tied a franchise record.

  • The 558 total yards for Minnesota was the fourth-most in franchise history and the most since putting up 605 yards against New Orleans in 2004.

  • The Vikings had as dominant an offensive first half as they’ve had in some time, amassing 351 yards of offense before halftime. The Vikes had 197 yards on the ground, including 86 yards on four carries from McKinnon, 52 yards on 11 carries from Asiata with two touchdowns, and 16 yards and a rushing TD from Bridgewater.

  • Bridgewater completed 11 of 16 passes in the first half for 197 yards with a passer rating of 110.7.

  • Wright had the first 100-yard receiving game of his career before halftime, catching five passes for 105 yards. In the first three games combined, Wright had three catches for 37 yards.

  • The Vikings had five first-half possessions and never punted – scoring three touchdowns, one field goal and one missed field goal.

  • The Vikings’ first punt didn’t come until less than three minutes remained in the third quarter and Jeff Locke hit a 24-yard shank that only went about 25 yards in the air.

  • There was a big shift in momentum in the second quarter. After the 55-yard run by McKinnon got the Vikings into Atlanta territory, Blair Walsh missed a 49-yard field goal. The Falcons responded with a 12-play scoring drive in which they converted three third downs to tie the game at 14.

  • Bridgewater had a perfect first quarter, completing all six of his passes thrown for 98 yards with both of his first two drives ending with Asiata touchdowns.

  • Atlanta’s first scoring drive of the game was an old-school style offense as it marched 80 yards in 11 plays in a drive that included six runs by three different backs. As has been a problem for the Vikings this season, they couldn’t get off the field on third down, allowing the Falcons to convert three times on third down, including a blown coverage that allowed Ryan to complete a 24-yard TD pass to a wide open Roddy White, who waltzed untouched into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7.

  • The Vikings got things started early, taking their first drive of the game 73 yards on eight plays for the game’s first touchdown. Bridgewater completed all four of his passes on the drive, including three to Jarius Wright for 59 yards, highlighted by a 52-yard bubble screen to get the Vikings off to a positive start.

  • The game-time temperature was 82 degrees, just one degree shy of the all-time warmest temp for a regular-season home, outdoor game for the Vikings.

  • The paid attendance was 52,173.

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