It was a game of firsts for the Vikings.
Kenechi Udeze recorded his first sack, Adrian Peterson took his first reception for a touchdown in his first professional game, and the Vikings registered their first win of 2007 in their first game of the season – a 24-3 victory that was much closer for the majority of the game before Peterson and the defense blew it open in the fourth quarter.
While Peterson's NFL debut was celebrated with 19 carries for 103 yards – a record-setting performance for a Vikings rookie running back and a 60-yard touchdown on his only catch of the day – it was the team's defense that held the lead for most of the game.
The Vikings scored on Atlanta's first possession of the game on a 54-yard interception return by Kevin Williams and held a 10-0 lead into the fourth quarter before the scoring broke open with Peterson's touchdown – the only touchdown for either offense – and an Antoine Winfield interception return for a touchdown.
The defense held the Falcons to a 3.4-yard average on 28 rushing attempts, and the passing defense kept the Falcons from breaking a reception for more than 15 yards, giving up 199 yards through the air. But defensively, the story was two interception returns for touchdowns and six sacks.
Offensively, Peterson carried the load with 19 rushes, a necessary development after starter Chester Taylor left the game with a hip contusion in the first quarter. With Mewelde Moore deactivated for the game, Peterson was the only Minnesota running back to carry more than three times, and he was the only Viking to have more than 30 yards receiving.
Tarvaris Jackson finished the game completing 13 of 23 passes for 163 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He avoided a sack the whole game.
The Vikings used a moving quarterback to their advantage on their first drive, with TE Visanthe Shiancoe picking up the initial first down of the season with a 10-yard reception on second down. Two plays later, Taylor was picking up a first down with a 14-yard gain on a draw, moving the ball across midfield. But the first big decision for head coach Brad Childress came when his team faced fourth-and-2 on the Falcons 40-yard line. He opted to punt the ball, and the crowd reacted with disproval but ended up cheering when Chris Kluwe pinned the Falcons at the 11-yard line.
The Vikings nearly had a 2-0 lead on Atlanta's first play from scrimmage when Udeze missed a sack of Harrington in the end zone and Ben Leber was flagged for a late hit following a completion. While the Falcons picked up one more first down on the drive, it was a third-down completion that killed them when it was Kevin Williams catching Harrington's pass and returning the interception 54 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
The defense rose up again on the Falcons' next possession after they picked up two first downs passing. On the third play of the series, Williams and E.J. Henderson combined for a sack, and Henderson followed that by stuffing Warrick Dunn for a 5-yard loss on the next play, setting up a third-and-19 that Harrington couldn't convert.
The Vikings took over on their own 22 and used a heavy dose of Peterson, starting with a 13-yard run that was followed by a Jackson-to-Williamson slant for 13 yards. Peterson picked up 7 more on an end-around. But it fell apart from there, as a holding call on Artis Hicks and an injury to Taylor following an incomplete pass helped bring the drive to a halt, and the teams exchanged punts into the second quarter.
Harrington and Dunn tried to move the Falcons into scoring position, Harrington moving the chains initially with a 14-yard completion to Alge Crumpler, and Dunn picked up 25 yards on three carries to move from the 3-yard line to the 38. The Falcons picked up two more first downs on Jerious Norwood runs, but a sack by Henderson helped end the drive and bring on rookie kicker Matt Prater, who left a 44-yard field goal wide to the right to keep the Falcons scoreless with 3:58 to play in the half.
The Vikings looked to be in good position to drive into scoring position to end the half and were across midfield at the two-minute warning, but a bad snap with Jackson in shotgun formation averted disaster when Peterson rushed back to fall on the ball on third down. That allowed for the Vikings to punt the ball and go to halftime without Atlanta getting the field position to make a run at a last-minute score in the first half.
The third quarter featured more of the same back-and-forth exchange of possessions, as the Falcons punted away their first two possessions and Jackson threw a pass for Shiancoe that deflected off him, into the defensive backfield and the diving arms of CB DeAngelo Hall.
Once again, the Falcons couldn't turn a drive into points and the Vikings turned poor field position at the 9-yard line into a scoring field position. Williamson and Peterson combined to pick up 12 yards, but Bobby Wade provided the big play as he came open running in the seams for a 28-yard pickup. When Aundrae Allison moved the chains with an 11-yard reception, the Vikings were in range for Longwell to kick a 49-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead with 1:46 left in the third quarter.
The Falcons responded with their first scoring drive of the game, a 47-yard drive that used up 13 plays and 7:23 off the clock. They moved into field-goal position thanks mainly to an intermediate passing game in which Laurent Robinson caught two passes of 12 and 13 yards, and TE Dwayne Blakley caught passes of 8 and 10 yards. Prater eventually got the call and connected on a 45-yard field goal to put Atlanta on the scoreboard, making it 10-3 with 9:23 to play in the game.
But it didn't take long for the Vikings to respond. Peterson began the ensuing drive with a 15-yard run, but three plays later he bobbled a third-down screen pass before snapping it out of mid-air and running 60 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown and a 17-3 lead with 7:19 to play in the game.
Two more sacks quickly ended the Falcons' hopes on their next drive, and Winfield slammed the door tightly shut with a 14-yard interception return for a touchdown and a 24-3 lead, a score that held up until the final second ticked off when Udeze ended the game with a sack.
In all, while the game featured a number of firsts, the Vikings held true to their method of operation – featuring a defense built to score and an offense built to run the ball with an exciting new rookie in the fold.
Defense, Peterson Secure Opening Victory
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