By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Case Keenum threw a pair of touchdown passes, and the Minnesota Vikings extended their winning streak to eight straight games, keeping the Atlanta Falcons out of the end zone in a 14-9 victory on Sunday.
Keenum, who was 25 of 30 for 227 yards, hooked up with Jerick McKinnon on a 2-yard scoring play in the second quarter and went to Kyle Rudolph for a 6-yard TD on the first play of the fourth quarter, capping an 89-yard drive that consumed more than 8 minutes.
Minnesota (10-2) turned in a stellar defensive effort against a Falcons team that led the league in scoring a year ago and seemed to be finding its stride during a three-game winning streak, averaging nearly 32 points.
The Falcons were held without a touchdown for the first time since Dec. 13, 2015, when they were blanked 38-0 by Carolina. Matt Ryan’s streak of 30 straight games with a touchdown pass also ended, going down as the eighth-longest in NFL history.
The loss could be a crucial one for Atlanta (7-5), which came into the day trailing New Orleans and Carolina by a single game in the NFC South. The Saints and the Panthers met later Sunday in a matchup of 8-3 teams.
After Bryant’s third field goal gave the Falcons a 9-7 lead early in the third quarter, the Vikings took control with a grinding drive that included three third-down conversions.
Finally, after flipping ends of the field at the end of the third quarter, Keenum found Rudolph all alone in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead score. The right end beat cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who took over with Desmond Trufant held out because of a concussion.
While Rudolph and his teammates celebrated, Wreh-Wilson looked around as though he was expecting help.
Atlanta’s last gasp ended when Bryant missed a 45-yard field goal with 4:58 remaining.
Minnesota held the ball the rest of the game, finally kneeling down deep in Falcons territory as the clock ran out.
Ryan was just 16 of 29 for 173 yards, and the Vikings totally shut down Julio Jones. The star receiver was held to a pair of catches for 24 yards.
Vikings: TE David Morgan went out in the first quarter with a concussion. He was the top backup to Rudolph.
Falcons: G Andy Levitre sustained a triceps injury in the first quarter and didn’t return. Ben Garland took his spot on the offensive line. In addition to Trufant, the defense was missing nickel back Brian Poole (back), who appeared to make progress during the week but was downgraded to questionable on Saturday and didn’t suit up.
Vikings: Their third straight road game will be against another NFC South opponent, the Carolina Panthers.
Falcons: Face a short turnaround before hosting a must-win Thursday night game against their bitter division rival, the Saints.