Percy Harvin's performance not enough as Vikings fall to Falcons
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ATLANTA - Percy Harvin could not save the day.
Despite Harvin's 39-yard touchdown catch, 20-yard reception that set up another score and 104-yard kickoff return, that did not result in a touchdown, the Minnesota Vikings lost 24-14 to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
Harvin's big plays came in the second half as the Vikings attempted a comeback after getting down 17-0 at the half.
Harvin also appeared to come close to a touchdown on a third-down run after his long kick return in the fourth quarter, but the Vikings did not challenge and Toby Gerhart failed to get into the end zone on fourth down.
The Vikings, who were without injured Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson, fell to 2-9 on the season and lost their third in a row.
"I think you've got to be proud of the way we fought for four quarters," Ponder said, a familiar statement among Vikings players this season.
The Falcons improved to 7-4.
After a first half filled with offensive ineptitude, the Vikings rallied in the second half.
The Vikings made it 17-14 with 13 minutes, 13 seconds left in the fourth quarter as Christian Ponder put a perfect pass into the hands of Harvin on a 39-yard pass on fourth-and-13.
Harvin caught the ball in the back of the end zone. For some reason, he was being covered by Falcons linebacker Curtis Lofton.
That series was set up by a Chris Kluwe punt that hit off the Falcons' Eric Weems and was recovered by the Vikings at the Atlanta 36-yard line.
The Vikings went for it on fourth down because what was initially ruled a catch by Gerhart on third down was overturned after Falcons coach Mike Smith challenged the play, saying the ball had hit the ground.
Gerhart's 1-yard touchdown run had pulled the Vikings within 10 points with 3:58 left in the third quarter and capped a 14-play, 80-yard drive. That was by far the best the Vikings offense had looked all day to that point.
The Vikings converted three third downs on the drive and the touchdown was set up by Christian Ponder's 20-yard pass to Harvin that put the ball at the Atlanta 1-yard line. Harvin was covered by two Falcons cornerbacks, but somehow Ponder got the ball through them and to his wide receiver.
The Falcons offense came back to life in the fourth quarter and took a 24-14 lead with only 6:40 left on Matt Ryan's 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Michael Palmer. The touchdown was set up by Ryan's 23-yard pass to Roddy White on third down that put the ball at the Vikings 7.
Harvin, whio is playing with sore ribs, responded with a 104-yard kickoff return that ended at the Falcons 3-yard line thanks to the fact that Atlanta's Christopher Owens did not give up on the play and was able to trip up Harvin.
Still, the Vikings looked to be in a great shape.
Ponder, however, was sacked for a 2-yard loss on first down. Harvin got 3 yards back on second down and gained 1-yard on the next play, setting up a fourth-down and goal from the Falcons 1.
There was some feeling Harvin had gotten into the end zone on third down but the officials did not agree and the challenge flag was not thrown by Vikings coach Leslie Frazier.
Frazier decided that instead of trying a field goal the ball would go to Gerhart on fourth down. He lost 2 yards.
Fraizer was not happy with his decision afterward and he told his players that.
"That's more on me," he said. "We get that fourth and 1 late and I decided we were going to go for it. ... It went the other way and that's purely on me. Just a bad mistake on my part by putting us in that position because the guys did battle. Battled right to the very end. Just have to be smarter on my part in that situation. I let my emotions get in the way."
The Falcons took a 7-0 lead with 6:08 left in the first quarter.
After going three-and-out on their first drive, the Falcons drove 80 yards on nine plays.
Running back Michael Turner carried five times for 34 yards, and wide receiver Harry Douglas capped the drive by catching a shallow crossing route from Matt Ryan before escaping a tackle attempt by middle linebacker E.J. Henderson at the 15 and then going into the end zone.
Atlanta increased its advantage to 14-0 in the second quarter as White caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Ryan after a busted coverage by the Vikings left the wide receiver all alone in the back of the end zone.
Ryan completed an 18-yard pass to Douglas and another 18-yarder to Tony Gonzalez on the 10-play drive to help set up the score.
The Falcons went into the locker room with a 17-0 lead thanks in large part to a 42-yard punt return by Weems late in the second quarter.
That put the ball at the Vikings 36-yard line and Matt Bryant made a 37-yard field goal with 37 seconds left.
The Falcons had taken a 24-14 lead in the fourth quarter when Percy Harvin's 104-yard kickoff return put the ball at the Atlanta 3.
A quick touchdown would have put the Vikings in excellent position with more than 6 minutes left but the Falcons were able to force the visiting team into a four-and-out.
• 95: Season-high receiving yards for Percy Harvin in Sunday's game. Harvin had eight catches.
• 15: First downs for the Falcons in the first half
• 5: First downs for the Vikings in the first half, including two in the first quarter
• 207: Yards for the Falcons in the first half
• 97: Yards for the Vikings in the first half
• Asher Allen left the game because of a shoulder injury late in the first quarter and was replaced by Benny Sapp at left corner. Allen was starting in place of Antoine Winfield, who is on injured reserve.
• Long snapper Cullen Loeffler, who suffered a rotator cuff injury two weeks ago against Green Bay, hurt his lower back in the second quarter when he was blocked while running down the field after a Chris Kluwe punt. That meant Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen had to be used as the long snapper.
• Running back Adrian Peterson missed Sunday's game because of a high left ankle sprain suffered last weekend against the Oakland Raiders. Right guard Anthony Herrera (knee), tight end Kyle Rudolph (quadriceps) and safety Husain Abdullah (concussion) also were inactive.
Odds and ends
• Atlanta: Harry Douglas 27-yard pass from Matt Ryan, 6:08. Matt Bryant kick. Drive: 9 plays, 80 yards, 5:39. Falcons 7, Vikings 0
• Atlanta: Roddy White 6-yard pass from Ryan, 4:04. Bryant kick. Drive: 10-68-6:01. Falcons 14, Vikings 0
• Atlanta: Ryan 37-yard field goal, 0:37. Drive: 6-17-1:23. Falcons 17, Vikings 0
• Falcons: Michael Palmer 3-yard pass from Ryan, 6:40. Bryant kick. Drive: 9-73-3:59. Falcons 24, Vikings 14
The Vikings will play the Denver Broncos next Sunday at the Metrodome.
The Vikings are 7-5 all-time against the Broncos and have won three of the past five meetings. The Broncos won the last meeting, beating the Vikings 22-19 in overtime in the 2007 regular-season finale.
The big storyline of the week clearly will be Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, who was 4-1 as the Broncos starter entering Sunday.