The talk of the game Sunday was the numerous turnovers that self-destructed the Vikings offense. But lost in the attention they garnered were a pair of strong performances by Visanthe Shiancoe and Tarvaris Jackson.
Overlooked in the fumble-fest that was Sunday's 24-17 loss to Atlanta, the Vikings offense had some standout moments from QB Tarvaris Jackson
and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe
. Jackson had another solid outing, completing 22 of 36 passes for 233 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. But fumbles overshadowed Jackson's continuing improvement as a field general.
"I thought Tarvaris played extremely well," center Matt Birk
said. "He was in control and seemed to be doing exactly what he wanted to for most of the game. We just kept stalling out with turnovers."
Shiancoe's performance was also seemingly lost in the shuffle. He posted a career day, catching seven passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns, but he said following the game that it meant very little without the victory to go with it.
"That doesn't mean anything without the win," Shiancoe said of his big receiving day. "I was glad to be able to contribute, but at this point, it's all about winning and we didn't win."
Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield said after the game that he's confident there won't be a letdown following this tough defeat like they witnessed last year after losing to the Redskins.
"We had too many self-inflicted wounds," Winfield said. "We had fumbles, we had penalties when we had a chance to get off the field. It's not the kind of ball you want to be playing, but that isn't the way we play. You won't see that kind of play next week against the Giants. You can count on that."
Adrian Peterson is just two yards away from the being the fifth running back in NFL history to gain 3,000 or more yards in his first two seasons. Through 29 games, he has rushed for 2,998 yards, trailing only Eric Dickerson (3,913), Edgerrin James (3,262), Earl Campbell (3,147) and Clinton Portis (3,099).
Peterson and Chester Taylor combined to set a new franchise record for most rushing attempts by a tandem of backs. They have combined for 440 carries, breaking the old record of 408 between Chuck Foreman (278) and Brent McClanahan (130) in 1976 – the last year the Vikings went to a Super Bowl.
The defenses did their part to take away the anticipated battle of the NFL's top two rushers in Peterson and Michael Turner. A.D. finished the game with 22 carries for 76 yards – a 3.5-yard average – with a long of 17 yards. Turner had 19 carries for 70 yards – a 3.7-yard average – and a long run of 13 yards.
Roddy White, one of the league's receiving yardage leaders, was limited to just three catches for 24 yards and had no catches in the second half. Michael Jenkins led Atlanta with four catches for 61 yards.
The Vikings had three players with five or more receptions – Shiancoe with seven and Bobby Wade and Taylor with five each.
Bernard Berrian was limited to just two catches for 18 yards and Sidney Rice didn't have a reception.
The Vikings used multiple formations that included tight ends as outside receivers, including Jim Kleinsasser and Jeff Dugan, but neither caught a pass.
The Vikings won the time of possession battle, holding the ball for 32 minutes, 55 seconds.
The Vikings were six of 13 converting third downs, but just two of nine in the second half.
The Vikings punted only once in Sunday's game, thanks to the numerous turnovers and going on fourth down four different times.
For a brief period in the fourth quarter, Jackson had more rushing yards (63) than Peterson (61). They would finish the game with identical 76-yard rushing totals.
Shiancoe set a career high for yardage by going over 100 yards in the fourth quarter, becoming the first Viking other than Berrian to have a 100-yard receiving game this season.
Thanks to all of the turnovers, the Vikings didn't punt until 6:07 remained in the third quarter.
Things went from the bad to the absurd as Jackson and Matt Birk got crossed up on the snap count on a third-down play and the snap sailed over his head for a 23-yard loss to kill the drive.
Berrian suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter and needed to be helped to the sideline to have the ankle taped. He returned to action later in the quarter after getting taped up.
The Vikings' turnover woes continued on the first drive of the second half. After getting the ball to the Atlanta 16-yard line thanks to some clutch passes from Jackson to Shiancoe, Jackson had a bizarre fumble (the fourth of the game) in which defensive lineman Kindal Moorhead slapped the ball out of Jackson's hand, which rolled 20 yards backward before being recovered by the Falcons.
At halftime, the Falcons held a time-of-possession advantage of 16:36 to 13:24. Atlanta had 13 first downs to 10 by the Vikings, but Minnesota held a yardage edge of 180 (99 passing, 81 rushing) to 166 (100 passing, 66 rushing) for the Falcons.
The Vikings were four of four converting third downs in the first half.
The average starting field position for the Vikings in the first half was their own 16-yard line. For Atlanta, the average starting spot was their own 43.
Individually in the first half, Jackson completed eight of nine passes for 99 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 149.5. Peterson had 11 carries for 48 yards and Jackson had three rushes for 30 yards. Shiancoe was the main man in the receiving game in the first half, too, catching three passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. Wade caught two passes for 26 yards.
For the Falcons, Ryan completed 11 of 18 passes in the first half for 109 yards and a TD for a passer rating of 96.8. Turner had 12 carries for 50 yards, and Jenkins and White each had three catches – Jenkins gaining 39 yards and White gaining 24 yards.
Ten of Atlanta's 17 points in the first half were the result of Vikings turnovers.
Jackson was "credited" with a fumble at midfield late in the first half that will probably be changed to a fumble by Peterson when film is reviewed. If so, it was his second fumble of the half and both were critical. The first came inside the Atlanta 20-yard line when the Vikings were already in scoring position and the second came at midfield following a 29-yard scramble by Jackson that had momentum swinging back in the direction of the Vikings.
After his first-quarter fumble on a punt return, Berrian was replaced by Bobby Wade.
The first quarter statistics were surprisingly similar. Both teams had six first downs and the Vikings held the yardage edge with 90 (57 passing, 33 rushing) to 79 for the Falcons (43 rushing, 36 passing). The Vikings were two of two on third downs, while Atlanta was one of two. The Falcons had the time-of-possession edge 8:13 to 6:47.
Individually, Jackson completed four of five passes in the opening quarter for 57 yards and a passer rating of 153.8. Peterson had five carries for 23 yards and Shiancoe had two catches for 32 yards and a touchdown.
Ryan completed four of six passes in the first quarter for 36 yards and a passer rating of 82.6. Turner had eight carries for 35 yards and Jenkins led Falcons receivers with two catches for 24 yards.
With less than a minute to play in the first quarter, the Vikings committed another huge special teams gaffe, as Berrian fumbled a punt that, for all appearances, looked like one that should have been fair caught. Instead, he was stripped almost immediately and special teamer Michael Boley fell on the ball at the Vikings 22-yard line for the game's first turnover. The Falcons would convert the turnover into a touchdown early in the second quarter.
The Vikings' opening drive covered 12 plays and 90 yards. The plays were faily equally split – seven runs, five passes – and Jackson completed his last five passes, with the final two being a 20-yarder to Wade and a 21-yard TD to Shiancoe.
The Vikings did themselves no favors on their first possession of the game. Chester Taylor bobbled the opening kickoff in the end zone and, after it came about a foot out of the end zone, he was forced to return it. He was tackled at the 10-yard, which is why the Vikings had to drive 90 yards for a score.
The Falcons took the opening kickoff and drove 12 plays for 74 yards and a touchdown on their first drive. Turner was the main man, rushing six times for 24 yards and the game's first touchdown.
Atlanta was extremely efficient in its first drive. The team faced a third-down situation only once and that was a third-and-2 play.
Kevin Williams helped out the Falcons on their opening drive, getting called for two offsides penalties.
Former Viking Esera Tuaolo sang the National Anthem with a distinct vocal styling that included pulling the microphone off the stand to belt out the final half of the song.
The paid attendance was 62,889 – the 113th straight sellout at the Metrodome.
The Vikings inactives included DT Pat Williams and OT Artis Hicks.
Gus Frerotte was the No. 2 QB Sunday and, had anything happened to Jackson, he would have been the next line of offense.