Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman returned to the lineup after playing just two games last season because of injury. He had a key drive-killing fumble during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Minneapolis.
Photo: AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn
Photo: AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn

Film-review report card: Vikings 28, Falcons 12

When it was time to flip the switch on for the 2019 season, the Falcons room was dark.

Under coach Dan Quinn the Falcons have had some stinkers in season-opening games. This one against the Vikings ranked right up there with the loss to Tampa Bay in 2016 and the near-loss to the Mike Glennon-led Chicago Bears in 2017. 

The grades 

Run offense: The Falcons had to abandon the run after falling behind 21-0. Devonta Freeman averaged a shoddy 2.4 yards per carry and fumbled to kill a promising drive. Ito Smith averaged 5.2 yards per carry. The Falcons overall numbers were padded by Matt Ryan’s two scrambles for 24 yards. Grade: D-minus

Falcons tackle Jake Matthews is beaten by Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. He saw him too late after trying to block down on Everson Griffien. (Fox Screen shot from gamepass.nfl.com) 

Pass offense: Ryan completed 33 of 46 passes for 304 yards and two late garbage-time touchdowns. He had a passer rating of 85.8. Wide receiver Julio Jones had a rough day against the Vikings, who double-teamed him with cornerback Xavier Rhodes and a safety. Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith helped Rhodes defend Jones, who caught six of 11 targets for 31 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Austin Hooper caught all nine of his targets for 77 yards. Calvin Ridley caught four of six targets for 64 yards and a touchdown. Ryan was sacked four times and hit seven times as the protection was not up to par. Grade: C-minus  

Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson breaks free to block the Falcons first punt of the game. (Fox screen shot from gamepass.nfl.com)

Run defense: The Falcons were gashed in the run game for 172 yards. Playing out of their 3-4 defense, they repeatedly lost containment around the edge of the defense. Defensive end Takk McKinley kept going inside when he should have been taking the outside shoulder and turning the play back inside to the oncoming help. There’s no room for free-styling in the scheme. Grade: F

The Vikings had some nice block ing to clear a path for running back Dalvin Cook to score on a 19-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. (Fox screen shot from gamepass.nfl.com) 

Pass defense: The pass defense had most of the day off as the Vikings attempted only 10 passes. They completed eight of the passes for 98 yards. Second-year cornerback Isaiah Oliver had one tackle against the Vikings. He had trouble avoiding blocks and was beaten by Adam Thielen for a touchdown. “I thought the first play after the punt that, was the one that I thought was a difficult play for him and I thought we could do that one better,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “There's going to be allowed catches, but they don't have to be a score.” He settled down. “After that, I didn't like the penalty that he had on the long one, but all the confidence in what we do and how we play is there for sure,” Quinn said. “So, I would say from -- on the defensive back side, it wasn't a game that they were tested a lot. We went in going expecting a big run dose.” Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett had a sack and a quarterback hit. Grade: D

Falcons showed off their 3-4 alignment against the Vikings. It was an absolute disaster. Vikings were able to run at will against six man five and six man fronts. (Fox screen shot from gamepass.nfl.com)

Special teams:  Punter Matt Bosher had his first attempt blocked by Eric Wilson. Matt Bryant didn’t get any action as the Falcons elected to go for two points after both touchdowns. Returner Kenjon Barner made his debut and averaged 22 yards on two kickoff returns and 11.5 yards on two punt returns. Grade: D 

Coaching: Plain and simple, the Falcons were not ready to play. After working on their short-yardage package all offseason, they got to the 3-yard line, lined up in a power formation and tried to throw a pass. Quinn should have just said they were practicing on their two-point plays. No play card exists that calls for you to go for two when it’s 28-6. Or, perhaps, they misread the card like they misread the preparedness of the team.  Grade F

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