Vikings take control of NFC North with win over Falcons


The Minnesota Vikings (8-3) reclaimed first place in the NFC North, sending the reeling Atlanta Falcons (6-5) to a 20-10 defeat in Week 12. Here's what you need to know:

1. Whereas the Packers have lost their identity with Aaron Rodgers struggling to move the ball with consistency, the Vikings have a winning formula with Adrian Peterson and a stout defense. The NFL's rushing leader, Peterson is hitting his stride for the stretch run, clearing 100 yards from scrimmage for the fifth time in the past six games. With 158 yards on Sunday, he moved into 18th place on the all-time list, passing Corey Dillon and Hall of Famers John Riggins and O.J. Simpson. Credit Minnesota's improved blocking, allowing Peterson to limit his negative plays while churning out 127 rushing yards per game over the past five weeks.

2. The Falcons are still alive in a weak NFC wild-card field, but their season is on life support after their fifth loss in six games. The one strength they could count on week-in and week-out -- the Matt Ryan-to-Julio Jones connection -- was eliminated by Xavier Rhodes on Sunday.

Although Kyle Shanahan's offense force-feeds Jones near the line of scrimmage, Ryan's aerial attack has been held back by the lack of a downfield element. Roddy White has been a non-factor all season and Leonard Hankerson was inactive, leaving Ryan with Jones and a cast of misfits in the passing game. Ryan now has 10 turnovers versus 10 touchdowns in his last six games. He fell one game shy of tying the record for most consecutive starts with 250 or more yards passing (18).

3. If the first-place Vikings have one overriding concern, it's that Teddy Bridgewater has taken too many hits over the past month. One of the NFL's most effective scramblers, Bridgewater must improve his timing on slides and throw-aways to protect his slight frame. On the flip side, it's encouraging that the Bridgewater-to-Kyle Rudolph connection is heating up. Freed up to run more pass routes of late, Rudolph has 159 yards on 13 receptions over the past two weeks.

4. Anthony Barr has emerged as one of the NFL's most promising young linebackers. He picked up the slack with star safety Harrison Smith out of the lineup, forcing a pair of game-altering fumbles and hanging with Tevin Coleman deep down the sideline for a key pass breakup.

5. This performance typified Coleman's up-and-down rookie season for Atlanta. The third-round pick's first 100-yard game came via a pair of long runs, but he couldn't move the chains with consistency, fumbled at the end of a 46-yard play, lost a short touchdown to a Tony Moeaki clipping penalty and failed to come down with a deep target in the fourth quarter.