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Case Keenum, Vikings Beat Falcons 14-9 to Earn 8th Straight Win

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2017

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 03: Case Keenum #7 of the Minnesota Vikings throws a pass during the first half against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings won their eighth game in a row with Sunday's 14-9 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on the road at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Case Keenum was 25-of-30 for 227 yards and two touchdowns in the win, and the pair of Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon combined for 100 yards on the ground.

Former NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz thought this was a statement victory for Minnesota:

Geoff Schwartz @geoffschwartz

I keep sleeping on the Vikings and they keep impressing. Felt like a playoff game in Atlanta today and they physically dominated.

The Vikings entered Week 13 ranked sixth in defensive efficiency, according to Football Outsiders. Minnesota showcased its balance on defense by not only limiting Devonta Freeman on the ground but also keeping Julio Jones in check through the air.

Freeman ran for 74 yards on 12 carries, while Jones had two receptions for 24 yards on six targets. The Star Tribune's Ben Goessling thought a collective effort in particular helped the Vikings neutralize Jones:

Ben Goessling @GoesslingStrib

After going for 25 yards last week, Julio Jones has one catch for 13 yards on four targets today. Xavier Rhodes, and Vikings' pass rush, have taken Jones out of the game.

The Falcons averaged 373.4 total yards per game before Sunday but gained 275 yards against Minnesota. NFL Research noted how one of the NFL's best third-down offenses was all but absent as well:

NFL Research @NFLResearch

Falcons led the NFL, converting 48.1 pct of 3rd downs entering Week 13. They are 1-10 on 3rd down today against the @Vikings

The Vikings offense didn't perform much better, but Keenum engineered a pair of time-consuming drives that resulted in touchdowns, which was the difference in the game.

McKinnon scored on a two-yard touchdown reception with 10:01 left in the first half to put the Vikings ahead, 7-3. Adding insult to injury for Atlanta, McKinnon celebrated with the "Dirty Bird":

NFL Fantasy Football @NFLfantasy

Jerick McKinnon scores a receiving TD and does the Dirty Bird. In the Falcons' house. #MINvsATL https://t.co/pnmDabIpIF

That touchdown capped off a drive that spanned just 53 yards but ate 5:04 off the clock.

Minnesota's second scoring drive took 8:15 as the Vikings moved 89 yards over 15 plays. Keenum hit tight end Kyle Rudolph from six yards out to put his team back in the lead, 14-9. Former NFL quarterback Sage Rosenfels didn't downplay how important he thought the possession was for the Vikings:

Sage Rosenfels @SageRosenfels18

That was the Minnesota Vikings’ best drive of the season.

The Falcons had two opportunities to put points on the board after Rudolph's touchdown reception. Their first drive after the score ended in a three-and-out, while Matt Bryant, who was responsible for all of Atlanta's scoring, missed a 45-yard field goal attempt with 4:59 left in the fourth quarter on the ensuing possession.

Keenum all but iced the game with a 22-yard pass to Adam Thielen on 3rd-and-4 at the Falcons' 43-yard line. Atlanta had used its final timeout before the play, so the Falcons were unable to stop the clock as Minnesota got another first down and let time expire.

The loss drops Atlanta out of a playoff position for the time being. The Falcons (7-5) are a half-game behind the Seattle Seahawks (7-4) for the final wild-card spot in the NFC. Atlanta has a win over Seattle, though, so the Falcons would climb back into sixth should the Seahawks lose to the NFC-leading Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night.

The Vikings, meanwhile, maintain their hold on the second seed in the NFC as they improve to 10-2. They'll clinch the NFC North title with one more victory after the Detroit Lions fell to 6-6 with a 44-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

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