Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson, left, blocks a punt by Atlanta Falcons punter Matt Bosher during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Minneapolis.
Photo: AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn
Photo: AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn

No dress rehearsal: Vikings pummel Falcons, 28-12, in season opener

The Vikings used a fast start and strong rushing attack to pummel the Falcons 28-12 in a poor season-opening performance on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“We missed the mark today,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “We missed it badly.” 

The Falcons didn’t manage to do much right on offense, defense nor special teams. 

The Falcons had a punt blocked, turned the ball over recklessly and didn’t block very well as they dropped to 0-1 on the season. The Vikings started the 100th season of the NFL with a 1-0 record.

The defense, which made its debut with Quinn calling plays, was shredded by Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook, who amassed 111 yards on 21 carries and scored two touchdowns. 

Skol. (Horn noise). 

New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s effort was foiled by two Matt Ryan interceptions and a careless fumble by running back Devonta Freeman at Minnesota’s 22-yard line. The Falcons didn’t score until 9:19 was left on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to wide receiver Calvin Ridley.

Freeman was held to 19 yards rushing on eight carries.  He added three catches for 12 yards.

Skol. (Horn noise).

The special teams, under new coordinator Ben Kotwica had a punt blocked on the fourth play of the game. 

Skol. (Horn noise). 

“I’m disappointed with us in all three phases today,” Quinn said. “Three turnovers and a blocked punt all leading to touchdowns. The inability to create any takeaways as we did in that space, it’s not going to be good. We knew going in that the turnover battle would be key.”

Both teams were considered Super Bowl contenders last season, but the Falcons finished 7-9 and the Vikings went 8-7-1. After a slew of offseason moves that included firing all of the coordinators and revamping the offensive line, the Falcons are still a work in progress.

When prized rookie right guard Chris Lindstrom left the game with a foot injury, Wes Schweitzer took over. Also, wide receiver Russell Gage suffered a concussion and is in the concussion protocol.

Quinn and his staff had five exhibition games to get ready, but elected to treat them as evaluation periods instead.

The Falcons weren’t ready and the Vikings, coached by former Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer (2007), jumped all over them as they built a 21-0 halftime lead.

Ryan, who didn’t have a clean pocket, uncharacteristically threw away their best chance to get back into the game in the third quarter. With the Falcons threatening to score and desperately needing a touchdown from the 3-yard line, Ryan heaved up a ball in the end zone that was intercepted by safety Anthony Harris. 

“I didn’t want to take a sack,” Ryan said.  

The Vikings promptly added Cook’s second touchdown to push their lead to 28-0.  

Ryan was not able to lean on wide receiver Julio Jones, who agreed to terms on a three-year $66 million extension on Saturday. Jones, who averaged just 54 yards receiving in his last three games against the Vikings had six catches for 31 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown with 1:05 to play.

In all, the Vikings rushed for 172 yards on 38 carries and three rushing touchdowns.

“We didn’t do what we needed to do,” defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said. “The edge wasn’t set. They executed well and the ball kept getting outside. We have to go back to work and address if we are going to have a good defense.” 

The Falcons started the game with a three-and-out. The punt by Matt Bosher was blocked by Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson as three Vikings flooded the gap to long-snapper Josh Harris’ left side. Wilson recovered his block at the Falcons’ 21 yard line.

Three plays later, on second-and-12, Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins connected with crafty wide receiver Adam Thielen for a 23-yard touchdown. He pulled away from second-year cornerback Isaiah Oliver after giving him a light bump. OIiver dove, but couldn’t  make the tackle.

The Vikings were rolling and the Falcons did not do much to stop them.   

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