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Falcons Team Grades: O-Line Falls Apart, Bridgewater Rises To Occasion

By Matthew Asher

Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater just put the entire NFL on notice. Although he didn’t throw a single touchdown in Minnesota’s 41-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, he had a very impressive showing for his first NFL start throwing for 317 yards and rushing for his first NFL TD. If Minnesota can keep Teddy healthy and protected, they will be a force to reckon with for years to come.

Last season, injuries derailed the Falcons as many of their starters spent weeks off the field recuperating. Up until this week, the Falcons have remained relatively injury-free. However, they weren’t so lucky against Minnesota as offensive guards Justin Blalock and Joe Hawley left the game, and that was just the offensive line. Tight end Levine Toilio actually had to fill in as an offensive lineman during the second half.

Unlike the Cincinnati loss, Atlanta didn’t look terrible. Minnesota was just better this time. When it was all said and done, Minnesota ran 74 total plays, picked up 558 yards of total offense, 26 first downs and scored on seven possessions. Atlanta finished the game with 64 plays, 411 yards of offense, 23 first downs and scored four times.

The Good

Matt Ryan gets a B-

While Ryan didn’t have a phenomenal game, there’s only so much to expect from a quarterback when he’s playing with a MASH unit as his offensive line. Despite the banged up O-line, Ryan was only sacked once for a 10-yard loss.

In the first half Ryan completed 14 of his 23 throws for 141 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He had time to throw and despite a few miscues, kept the Falcons in the game and even gave the Dirty Birds a 28-27 lead early in the fourth quarter. But once Minnesota regained the lead, Ryan couldn’t bring the team back. He finished the game completing 25 of 41 passes for 298 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions (both thrown in the final four minutes of the game).

The Bad

Atlanta’s run defense gets a D

Adrian Peterson was not on the field for the Vikings yet again. But looking at the stat line it would appear as though he did play as the Vikings ran around, up and through the Falcons. Most of the damage was done by Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata as the duo combined for 38 rushes, 213 yards and three touchdowns (Asiata scored all the TD’s). There’s a very good chance that McKinnon and Asiata will be this decade’s “Thunder and Lightning” just like the NY Giants running back duo of Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne back in 2000.

The Ugly

Atlanta’s first half defense gets a D+

Even though the Falcons won the time of possession battle in the first half, they didn’t make the most of it. Atlanta’s offense picked up 198 total yards in the first half, a very respectable number. Minnesota decided to emulate a Madden game and picked up 351, in the first half alone. Why so many yards? One reason is the Vikings never had to punt in the first half while the Falcons were forced to punt three times.

The Atlanta defense did keep Minnesota in check, forcing them to settle for field goals and even a fourth-and-goal attempt, but it was clear the defense was gassed in the second half. Giving up 154 rushing yards in a half will do that to a team.

Still searching for their first away win of the season, Atlanta will travel to MetLife Stadium to take on the New York Giants for their first game in October. Kickoff is scheduled for 1pm ET. #RiseUp

For more Falcons news and updates, visit Falcons Central.

Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on

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