Falcons plan to build from breakthrough win over Vikings

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Falcons coach Raheem Morris discusses what the team can build on after its 40-23 win over the Vikings.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Like most NFL coaches, Raheem Morris thought he saw an outstanding performance live, but he reserved the right to “watch the tape.”

He was excited after the Falcons body-slammed the Vikings 40-23 to get their first win of the season Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

“I don’t want to talk too soon,” Morris said after the game. “We’ll go back and watch the tape.”

The tape confirmed mostly what he saw from a team playing its first game since Dan Quinn was fired Oct. 11. He’s hoping that the team can build on the good play moving forward.

The Falcons (1-5) are set to host the Detroit Lions (2-3) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“Things that really stood out after watching the team were what we said, getting the ball back,” Morris said on Monday. “Retaining the ball and then scoring on offense was our job.”

The Falcons turned three first-half interceptions into 17 points. They tossed in a 50-yard field goal by Younghoe Koo to make it a 20-0 halftime lead.

“To watch the fellas go out and be able to execute those two main things, were the keys to victory for us,” Morris said.

Rookie cornerback A.J. Terrell made his first NFL interception.

“Just getting to the ball and making plays when they are there,” Terrell said. “Not letting things go over our heads….keep the pressure on them.”

Credit: Atlanta Falcons

After starting the season with just 2 interceptions, Atlanta defense snarled 3 Kirk Cousins passes in the first half of 40-23 win in Minnesota.

Credit: Atlanta Falcons

Making an interception on the first play of the game was like stealing a possession.

“Getting the ball to start the game and getting the ball at halftime was a lot of fun,” Morris said. “The offense going down to score right away, that’s what we kind of talked about last week to start the week off and it kind of played out that way. It was awesome.”

The Falcons stayed committed to the rushing attack even though they were not gaining many yards. The running backs – Todd Gurley, Brian Hill and Ito Smith – had 32 carries for 83 yards for just 2.6 yards per carry.

Gurley had 20 carries for 47 yards. Hill had 10 carries for 28 yards and Smith had two carries for 8 yards.

Normally, teams want to average 4.0 yards per carry. While they did gain some yards, it kept the offense open and balanced.

“Our running game allows us to dictate terms of what we’re able to do near the end,” Morris said. "It allowed us to own time of possession and was able to get guys like Todd Gurley and get our guys really going, getting our run game going and being able to come off the ball aggressive.

“Even if it doesn’t have the mass production of yardage, it has the production of toughness and presents the things that we want to present. We love it.”

Staying with the run led to the Falcons having success on third downs. They converted 9 of 17 third downs (53%).

“Even though we picked up minimal gains, we were still able to run the ball and maintain possession,” Morris said. “That’s why our time of possession was so good. Then it allowed us on third downs, our guys made magic and some really good things happened vs. the No. 1 third-down defense in football at the time.”

ExploreFalcons playing time percentage breakdown vs. Vikings

The Falcons won time of possession 40:07 to 19:53.

“It was fun to watch our offense go and execute," Morris said. "It was fun to watch them keep the ball and play little soccer so to speak and play keep away.”

While the Falcons were able to get some volume on running plays, they stopped Minnesota’s running backs. The Falcons held the Vikings, who were playing without Dalvin Cook, to 32 yards rushing.

Also, the defense’s pass-rush had a pulse. The Falcons had a sack and eight quarterback hits.

“You always want more,” Morris said. “I’m never going to sit here and say we’re completely satisfied with the one sack and with what we did. What the guys did do was they were able to affect Kirk Cousins by getting him off the spot.”

The Falcons did give up four pass plays of 20-yards or more. The Vikings had completions of 49, 36, 35 and 35. The Falcons did breakup seven passes.

“We didn’t see as many explosives – we still had too many, but the guys played well,” Morris said. “They played tight coverage. We were able to get after him a little bit, get him out of the pocket and when he did get out of the pocket, we were able to get some hits on him.”

Linebacker Deion Jones had a nice quarterback hit and Allen Bailey, who played some inside at tackle, beat Minnesota’s backup right guard for a sack.

“Grady Jarrett was able to cause some good disruption up the middle and it felt good,” Morris said. “Dante Fowler got close a few times. (Jacob Tuioti-Mariner) got a tipped ball that caused an interception. The guys are working and we’ll consistently get better. We definitely want more though.”

Dennard update: Cornerback Darqueze Dennard (hamstring) was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 29 and has missed the past three games.

“I know that he’s getting close,” Morris said. “His rehab is going well. His rehab is as tough as it gets…The last game we saw him playing, was probably one of his best games as a Falcon.”

Falcons’ next four games

Lions at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday Oct. 25

Falcons at Panthers at 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29

Broncos at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8

Falcons at Saints at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22

The Bow Tie Chronicles Podcasts:

Can be found on Google, iTunes and TuneIn

For more content about the Atlanta Falcons

Follow me on Twitter @DorlandoAJC

On Facebook at Atlanta Falcons News Now

Atlanta Falcons coverage on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Have a question? Email me at dledbetter@ajc.com

In Other News