Atlanta Game Plan

The Vikings have proved to be versatile on offense, but against Atlanta they may focus on one facet. Find out the matchups to watch and the injuries that could affect those matchups.65889]

The Vikings are balanced enough offensively to beat Atlanta running or passing. It basically depends on which facet the Falcons choose to take away.

The Vikings will start the game trying to run the ball. They rank seventh in the league in rushing (146.3), but would be higher if they hadn't switched to the pass to defeat Detroit and San Francisco.

Atlanta is 28th against the run (149.8), and their 3-4 defense is susceptible to being pounded by the Vikings' massive offensive line and 250-pound fullback Charles Stackhouse.

Defensively, the Vikings aren't concerned about quarterback Doug Johnson's arm. They'll focus on big back T.J. Duckett, who ran for 100 yards on 14 carries in last week's 23-3 loss to Carolina.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: WR Randy Moss against CB Ray Buchanan. The 6-4 Moss destroyed 49ers defensive backs who were 6-foot and 6-1, outleaping them for touchdowns of 15 and 35 yards last week. He scored on a 59-yard reception. Buchanan is one of the more accomplished corners in Falcons history, but he's only 5-9.

  • The Vikings offensive line against the 3-4 defense. The Vikings rarely see a 3-4 defense. They had trouble with it during last year's 30-24 overtime loss to the Falcons. RG Dave Dixon and RT Mike Rosenthal must neutralize LE Patrick Kerney, who has only a half sack after back-to-back seasons with at least 10. C Matt Birk needs to keep an eye on another Pro Bowl player, ILB Keith Brooking, who has a team-high 23 solo tackles and 24 overall.

  • SS Brian Russell and Corey Chavous against QB Doug Johnson. Russell and Chavous are tied for the league lead in interceptions with four apiece. Johnson is 30th in Passer rating (60.5) and is tied for the most interceptions thrown with seven.

    QB Gus Frerotte against Falcons secondary. Frerotte has only one interception in six-plus quarters in relief of Daunte Culpepper. The Falcons have only one interception this season.

    Vikings front seven against RB T.J. Duckett. The 254-pound Duckett concerns the Vikings. But if the defensive line stands as firm as it has in the first four games, linebackers Greg Biekert and Chris Claiborne should be free enough to make the tackle. Russell, who missed some tackles in run support last week, can't do the same this week against Duckett.

    INJURY IMPACT: QB Daunte Culpepper, who probably won't play because of four fractured bones in his back, shouldn't be missed. Backup Gus Frerotte, who had a 157.2 Passer rating and four touchdown passes in last week's 35-7 win over San Francisco, has proven he can get the job done in this offense.

  • WR Randy Moss, who has played the last three games in spite of back spasms, didn't practice Wednesday. He practiced only one day last week and still caught eight passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns.

  • WR D'Wayne Bates will miss his third consecutive game because of a foot injury. He won't be missed. Rookie Nate Burleson will get the start. He's a playmaker, as is Kelly Campbell, a second-year receiver who started in place of Bates at Detroit and caught a 72-yard touchdown pass.

  • DL Billy Lyon will return to action after missing a game because of a strained left calf. His return helps give DE Kevin Williams some rest.

  • TE Jim Kleinsasser will play after missing some of last week's game because of an abdominal contusion. Kleinsasser is fragile, but so far he's holding together.

  • LB Greg Biekert will play with a nagging rib injury. He should get some valuable rest in the nickel defense from rookie E.J. Henderson.

  • RB Michael Bennett fractured his foot in the offseason and is still on the physically unable to perform list. He was waiting for his latest X-rays to be read Wednesday. If all goes well, he could be running by the end of the week.




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