The Minnesota defense overwhelmed Harrington with six sacks and
two interception returns for touchdowns, and rookie running back
Adrian Peterson finished off the Falcons in a 24-3 victory by the
Vikings on Sunday.
"They just made the big plays and we didn't, and that's what
the game came down to," Harrington said.
Kevin Williams returned an interception 54 yards for a score on
Atlanta's first possession, a play made possible when a quick snap
count by the Falcons caught Williams flat-footed and kept him from
"They were fighting uphill the rest of the day," Williams
Thrust into full duty when starter Chester Taylor hurt his hip,
Peterson made an amazing catch out of the backfield that he turned
into a 60-yard touchdown reception. He also, by the way, finished
with 103 yards rushing on 19 carries.
"My vision is having Chester and Adrian carry it equally,"
coach Brad Childress said. "Obviously it's nice to have somebody
take up the slack."
Harrington? He was actually doing all right, until the
disastrous final stretch. But he fell to 23-44 in his career as a
starter and didn't do anything to make Atlanta forget about Vick,
whose indefinite suspension and probable jail time for his role in
a dogfighting ring stunned the Falcons this summer.
"We knew under pressure, he would throw the ball in the air and
give us a chance to make plays," Winfield said.
Harrington finished 23-for-32 for 199 yards, but he failed to
lead his team to the end zone. He also paid dearly for those two
interceptions, even though they weren't all his fault.
"One guy would break down here and one guy would break down
there. So it just wasn't all clicking," new coach Bobby Petrino
Peterson, the seventh overall draft pick out of Oklahoma, was
taken to inject some life into an offense that was one of the NFL's
worst last season. He couldn't have been any better in his debut.
With the Vikings clutching a 10-3 lead early in the fourth
quarter, Peterson sneaked past a blitzing DeAngelo Hall and put
both hands on an off-target pass from Tarvaris Jackson. The ball
popped straight up in the air, but Peterson caught it and ran
through the secondary without being touched.
Peterson didn't just become the featured back in his first NFL
game. He was the lead kickoff returner, and he also saved Minnesota
from a dangerous situation late in the first half by falling on a
fumble at his 31-yard line after an errant shotgun snap by Matt Birk.
Linebacker Keith Brooking promised a bright future for the
rookie, but he blamed the defense for giving up so much on the
ground. Hall said he thought the Vikings actually benefited from
"Chester's a bit of a smaller back and is not going to deliver
the blow like Adrian Peterson did all day today," Hall said.
The Falcons were without defensive tackle Rod Coleman and
another starter, free safety Chris Crocker. They forced one
turnover in the third quarter, a diving interception by Hall, but
moved a measly 10 yards after the possession change and summoned
Michael Koenen for his fourth of five punts.
Warrick Dunn, coming off an offseason operation on his back and
entering his 11th year in the league, showed he's not slowing down.
Dunn finished with 55 yards on 22 carries against the league's best
rushing defense in 2006, and he caught four passes for 26 yards.
But the Falcons sure could've used the energy and constant
threat that Vick -- for all his faults as a passer -- always
The Vikings certainly weren't perfect, failing on six of nine
third downs. Except for Peterson's big play, they kept getting
stuck in the middle of the field -- a big reason why they finished
6-10 last year.
Jackson was blitzed a lot, and the Falcons stacked the line
without fearing any of Minnesota's receivers. He threw to nine
different teammates, finishing 13-for-23 for 163 yards and one
touchdown and one interception.
"I thought he looked comfortable back there," Childress said.
"I didn't see any jittery-ness."
Matt Prater made a 45-yard field goal for Atlanta, but he
missed a 44-yard try in his NFL debut. ... After finishing last
season without a sack, Minnesota defensive end Kenechi Udeze got
one on the game's final play and was given the game ball for his