Grading The Game: Falcons

It was a tale of two halves for the Vikings in most areas of their game Sunday against the Falcons. The report card reflects that.


PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Gus Frerotte raised his record as a starter to 2-0 and continued to show that he knows how to find Randy Moss. Frerotte has more touchdown passes to Moss the past two games (five) than he does to all but three receivers in his 10-year career. Moss had two drops on the first two series Sunday, but Frerotte kept looking for him. Moss was penalized for pushing off on cornerback Ray Buchanan in the end zone. Frerotte went right back to Moss on the next play, and he reached over cornerback Kevin Mathis and made a great touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone. Frerotte threw his second interception of the season. He has seven TDs.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Rookie Onterrio Smith got his first NFL start and shared the load almost equally with Moe Williams and Doug Chapman. Smith averaged 4.8 yards (13-63) and broke off a 28-yard run. Williams had 71 yards on only 11 carries (6.5), including an 18-yard burst up the middle that keyed the Vikings' game-tying touchdown early in the third quarter. Chapman got 10 carries, his most extensive action of the season. But his 22 yards and 2.2-yard average shows he might still be recovering from ankle and Achilles' tendon injuries.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- The pass defense was awful in the first half and solid in the second as Falcons quarterback Doug Johnson passed for 352 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Safeties Brian Russell and Corey Chavous were too aggressive in the first half and were burned by the Falcons' play-action passes. Quentin McCord and Peerless Price caught passes of 33 and 47 yards on the first two drives to set up two field goals. Give Vikings defensive coordinator George O'Leary credit for getting his defense realigned at halftime. He told the defensive backs to relax, ignore the play-fakes and come up to make the tackle only after they saw the backs with the ball in their hands. The result was one first down and 24 total yards for the Falcons in the third quarter. The Vikings also had a team-record two safeties when the Falcons were penalized for grounding and holding with Doug Johnson passing from the end zone.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- Again, it was a tale of two halves. The first half consisted of missed tackles and a 55-yard run by T.J. Duckett that keyed a two-play touchdown drive. The Falcons abandoned the run in the second half. Duckett had only one carry for no gain and Warrick Dunn had one carry for 7 yards. Quarterback Doug Johnson had the only other carries of the second half when he scrambled twice for 20 yards. Throw out his 55-yarder and Duckett had 10 carries for 14 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Kickoff coverage, the weakness of the team this season, was exceptional. The Falcons returned six kickoffs and couldn't advance the ball past their 27. Willie Offord had four solo tackles on kickoffs. Punter Eddie Johnson struggled, but his 50-yard punt to the Falcons' 7-yard line set up the Vikings' first safety. Aaron Elling made field goal attempts of 32 and 24 yards and is quietly 7 of 9 on the season. Rookie Keenan Howry had a 30-yard kickoff return.

COACHING: B -- The Vikings rallied twice while changing the momentum from deficits of 6-0 and 20-12. To do that on the road says a lot about the coaching staff's poise. But the Falcons had the better game plan entering the contest. The Falcons' offense took advantage of the Vikings' over-aggressive defense with an extra package of play-action passes. Atlanta completed passes of 33 yards on its first play of the game and 47 yards on the first play of its second possession. If the Falcons had been able to score touchdowns instead of field goals on those drives it would have been a different game. Vikings defensive coordinator George O'Leary calmed his defense down and made the necessary changes at halftime. The bottom line is coach Mike Tice has the sixth 5-0 squad in team history. The other five 5-0 teams won their division.


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