Grading the game: Falcons

The Vikings lost a game that could have sealed a playoff spot. Besides fumbling away the ball four times, they played a mostly decent game.

PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus — Making his second consecutive start and first at the Metrodome since being benched after Week 2, Tarvaris Jackson completed 22 of 36 passes for 233 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 98.5 passer rating. Jackson, however, also was charged with three of the Vikings' seven fumbles and lost two of them. Jackson showed exceptional chemistry with tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who caught a career-best seven passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns. The third-year quarterback also had five completions apiece to Bobby Wade and Chester Taylor. Veteran Gus Frerotte, who came out of the Vikings' victory on Dec. 7 at Detroit after suffering a lower-back injury, was healthy enough to play, but for this game coach Brad Childress decided to stick with Jackson. Jackson had thrown a career-high four touchdown passes the previous week in the Vikings' 35-14 victory at Arizona.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C — This is certainly a rarity. Running back Adrian Peterson had one of the roughest days of his outstanding two-year career. He rushed for only 76 yards on 22 carries - that broke a streak of three consecutive 100-yard performances — and also lost one of the two fumbles he committed. He also muffed a handoff attempt from Jackson, but the quarterback was charged with the fumble because Peterson never officially had possession. Peterson now has an NFL-high (for a non-quarterback) eight fumbles on the season, a figure that certainly has to be cause for concern. The one bit of good news for the Vikings' run game was the fact that Jackson was able to produce 76 yards rushing on only eight carries, an impressive 9.5 yards per carry average. That's quite the contrast to when the immobile Frerotte has been back in the pocket this season.

PASS DEFENSE: B — The Vikings gave up only 134 yards passing and one touchdown (on a shovel pass) against rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. That was the fourth-lowest passing yardage the Vikings have surrendered this season. The Vikings held Falcons Pro Bowl receiver Roddy White in check. White had only 24 yards on three catches. Ryan finished with 13 completions on 24 attempts and was sacked twice by Ray Edwards.

RUSH DEFENSE: B — Pro Bowl nose tackle Pat Williams was out because of a fractured scapula but the Vikings run defense still played pretty well. The Falcons finished with 98 yards on 32 carries and top running back Michael Turner finished with 70 yards on 19 attempts and a touchdown. The Vikings looked a little shaky without Williams at the outset, giving up 43 rushing yards in the first quarter, but Minnesota got better after that. Fred Evans and Jimmy Kennedy both saw snaps at the nose tackle spot in place of Williams.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C — Bernard Berrian had a key miscue late in the first quarter when he fumbled a punt that gave the Falcons possession at the Vikings 22-yard line. Atlanta scored a touchdown off that mistake to take a 14-0 lead. The Vikings did not get much production from their special teams other than a 29-yard field goal from Ryan Longwell in the fourth quarter. Chester Taylor returned kickoffs for the first time since early in the season, but it was clear he was rusty. He lost the handle on a ball early in the game (he recovered) and averaged only 14.5 yards on two returns.

COACHING: B-minus – The Vikings' inability to hang onto the football could not be blamed on Brad Childress and Co. The Vikings simply did not execute and that brought an end to their four-game winning streak and stopped them from clinching the NFC North title. Childress did cause some to scratch their heads in the fourth quarter, first by going for it on a fourth down with just over eight minutes to go (the Vikings did not convert) and then by not using timeouts on the Vikings' second-to-last possession.

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