ATLANTA — Adrian Peterson was still miffed about his performance the previous week. He took it out on the Atlanta Falcons.
Bouncing back from a tough loss to Green Bay, Peterson ran for 158 yards and a pair of touchdowns and the Minnesota Vikings beat the slumping Falcons 20-10 on Sunday.
Minnesota (8-3) jumped ahead on Peterson’s 1-yard run in the opening quarter, and clinched it when he got loose on a 35-yard scamper down the sideline with 4:15 remaining in the game.
“We took it personal, the loss last week,” Peterson said.
In the 30-13 setback to the Packers, he was held to 45 yards — his lowest output since Week 1. He also had a crucial fumble in the fourth quarter that thwarted any hopes of a comeback.
“It was an opportunity for us to get into the end zone, and I ruined it,” Peterson recalled. “Coming in here, just being conscious of holding the ball tight, and taking advantage of any opportunities they present me with.”
Against the Falcons (6-5), who came in with the league’s top-ranked defense against the run, Peterson ripped off his sixth 100-yard game of the season. He also moved to 18th on the NFL career rushing list with 11,354 yards, passing O.J. Simpson (11,236), Corey Dillon (11,241) and John Riggins (11,352).
“I just come in and try to focus on doing my job and helping my team win,” Peterson said. “I’ll be able to look at those things after the fact.”
For Matt Ryan, it was another disappointing day. The Falcons quarterback threw two more interceptions — he’s got five in the past two games — and heard perhaps the loudest boos of his career from the home crowd after a pick in the end zone.
Atlanta has lost five of its past six games, including four straight, and is in danger of becoming one of the few teams in NFL history to start 5-0 and miss the playoffs.
“It starts with me,” Ryan said. “I’ve got to know when to throw the ball away, cut my losses, and take the field goal.”
Teddy Bridgewater completed 20 of 28 for 174 yards, though the Minnesota quarterback did throw an interception in the end zone to take potential points off the board. It didn’t hurt. The Vikings’ defense kept Atlanta out of the end zone until Ryan’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Nick Williams with 1:28 remaining.
Minnesota really clamped down on Atlanta star Julio Jones, held to 56 yards on five catches.
The Vikings reclaimed a one-game lead over Green Bay in the NFC North, taking advantage of the Packers’ loss to Chicago on Thanksgiving night.
Ryan squandered one scoring chance in the second quarter when a deep throw down the middle was picked off by Captain Munnerlyn. The second interception was really costly, coming after Tevin Coleman’s 1-yard scoring run, which would’ve given the Falcons a 10-7 lead in the third quarter, was wiped out by a clipping penalty on tight end Tony Moeaki.
With the Falcons facing third-and-goal from the 14, Ryan scrambled to his left and tried to force a pass to Jacob Tamme in the end zone. Terence Newman grabbed it instead, giving Minnesota a huge stop.
“You want to make plays. You want to be aggressive,” Ryan said. “But there’s a time and place for that. That was not the place.”
There was plenty of blame to go around.
Coleman, starting for injured running back Devonta Coleman, broke off the longest run of his career in the first quarter. But the 46-yard scamper was wasted when the rookie failed to keep a firm grip on the ball, allowing linebacker Anthony Barr to come up from behind and punch it away. Antone Exum fell on the loose ball at the Minnesota 21, giving Coleman his third lost fumble of the season.
On Atlanta’s last gasp in the fourth quarter, Coleman dropped a deep pass down the right sideline. Then, on fourth-and-1 at midfield, Ryan was hammered by Barr before he could even get off a quick pass, the linebacker blowing right by lineman Andy Levitre.
Coleman had the first 100-yard game of his career, finishing with 110 yards on 18 carries. … Next up for Peterson on the career rushing list: Steven Jackson at No. 17 with 11,388 yards. … Shayne Graham made a 31-yard field goal in his Atlanta debut. He was filling in for regular kicker Matt Bryant, out with a quadriceps injury. … Jones had a streak of three straight 100-yard receiving games.