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Falcons' offensive momentum derailed in loss to Vikings
By CHARLES ODUM
ATLANTA (AP) The Atlanta Falcons' offensive revival proved to be short-lived.
Minnesota's stingy defense frustrated the Falcons as quarterback Matt Ryan's streak of throwing at least one touchdown pass in 30 straight games ended. It was the longest active streak in the NFL.
Ryan threw for only 173 yards, his lowest total in four years, as the Falcons settled for three field goals in a 14-9 loss to the Vikings on Sunday.
After averaging more than 31 points in three straight wins, the Falcons were shut down by a Minnesota defense that began the day ranked fifth in the league in yards and points allowed.
"At the end of the day we have to make plays," said wide receiver Julio Jones, who had only two catches for 24 yards one week after having 12 catches for 253 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-20 win over Tampa Bay. "We're too explosive to not make plays and we're a way better ballclub than nine points."
The Falcons (7-5) led the league by converting 48 percent of their third-down plays before making only 1 of 10 against Minnesota.
"That's been a strength of ours over the last few weeks and it certainly was not today," said Falcons coach Dan Quinn.
Atlanta's offense led the league in scoring in 2016 but has had inconsistent production this season. The decline has been linked to former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's departure to become San Francisco's coach following the Super Bowl loss to New England.
With first-year coordinator Steve Sarkasian directing the offense, the Falcons lost four of five games early in the season, scoring no more than 17 points in the losses. Optimism and scoring were on the rise with wins over Dallas, Seattle and the Buccaneers before the Vikings (10-2) stifled Atlanta.
"We want to get this taste out of our mouth," Jones said. "They were just the better team today. We have to get back in rhythm. Like I said, we were just missing, offensively. Defensively, they did a great job."
Running back Devonta Freeman's return after missing two games with a concussion wasn't enough to keep Atlanta's offense moving. Freeman led Atlanta with 74 yards rushing on 12 carries, but seven penalties hurt any attempts to build momentum.
Freeman gave credit to Minnesota's defense.
"They play good football," Freeman said. "They're disciplined. They play sound defense. They're going to be where they need to be. They just play good."
The frustrating pace was set on Atlanta's opening possession. The Falcons held the ball for 15 plays but settled for the first of three field goals by Matt Bryant, a 38-yarder. The Falcons drew three penalties, including two holding calls, on the drive.
Ryan had thrown at least one touchdown pass in every game since a 38-0 loss at Carolina on Dec. 13, 2015. He was held to his low for yards passing since having 172 yards in a 33-10 loss to Seattle on Nov 10, 2013.
"We knew it was going to be tough sledding at times, but we've got to be more productive and put ourselves in better positions," Ryan said. "When we get our chances on third downs, we've got to make some plays."
It was an impressive statement for the Vikings' defense in Minnesota's eighth straight win.
"We are going to be up to the task no matter who the team is," Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr said. "We knew how great of an offense they were, and they have some big-time players over there. We just needed to play together, that's all we needed to do. Play together, play smart, and get off the field."
More AP NFL: http://pro32.ap.org and https://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Updated December 3, 2017
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