Vikings: 3 keys to beating Atlanta

The Minnesota Vikings (1-4) take on the Atlanta Falcons (0-5) at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday.

Kickoff is slated for noon. Here are three takeaways in order for the Vikings to come out victorious.

1. Stick with the run

Running back Dalvin Cook will not play on Sunday after suffering a groin injury in the Vikings’ loss to Seattle on Sunday, but the Vikings can’t afford to abandon the run game.

The Vikings have a great backup running back in Alexander Mattison. He ran for 112 yards on 20 carries after stepping in for Cook against the Seahawks. He also averaged 4.6 yards per carry in 2019.

"[Mattison] can obviously run the ball, he can pass protect, he can catch the football, he can run all the routes," Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins said on Wednesday. "He knows the game plans inside and out so you are able to run your offense."

The Vikings will also have a change on the offensive line with right guard Dru Samia ruled out with a wrist injury.

2. Limit production from Jones & Ridley

The Vikings young secondary is once again in for a big challenge Sunday against the Falcons. With Julio Jones returning to the field, the Falcons boast one of the best receiving duos in the league with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley.

Jones has only been healthy for one full game this season, but Ridley has picked up the slack with 29 catches for 485 yards and 4 touchdowns this season.

"He’s extremely fast, extremely fast out of the break," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said about Ridley on Friday. "Catches the ball great, really can get out of the cuts. He’s a good player, really good player."

Atlanta is averaging 276 yards passing per game (8th best in the NFL), while the Vikings are giving up 271 passing yards a game (7th worst in NFL).

3. Keep Irv Smith Jr. involved

Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson will continue to get most of the attention in the Vikings passing game, but Irv Smith Jr. proved to be a solid third target for Kirk Cousins last week.

After catching just two passes over the Vikings’ first four games, Smith Jr. finished with 4 receptions for a career-high 64 yards vs. Seattle.