ATLANTA — Jerick McKinnon was an elementary school kid in an Atlanta suburb when he learned the “Dirty Bird” touchdown celebration, so of course he nodded to its creator after the Vikings’ 14-9 win over the Falcons on Sunday.
“I give myself an ‘A,’ ” McKinnon said. “I don’t know what y’all think. That’s the Jamal Anderson ‘Dirty Bird.’ ”
Safe to assume McKinnon won the bragging rights over his many family and friends in attendance at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when he scored the game’s first touchdown — a 2-yard catch — on a nine-play drive dominated by Vikings running backs.
In total, Vikings backs accounted for more than half of Minnesota’s 312 yards on Sunday.
“Dream come true,” McKinnon said.
Other than McKinnon’s celebration, this one wasn’t pretty. The Vikings’ streak of 400-yard games ended. And tight end David Morgan, the group’s best blocker, was knocked out of the game on the first drive with a concussion.
But the Vikings held firm with a game plan seemingly focused on bulking up with multiple tight ends, fullback C.J. Ham and running the ball. Tight end Blake Bell stepped into Morgan’s role and played a season-high 21 snaps.
“He stepped up huge today,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “We didn’t have to get out of anything we practiced all week. Both him and C.J. played great for us today in extended roles.”
The Vikings gained 162 yards from scrimmage via McKinnon, Ham and Latavius Murray, who led with 76 rushing yards. It was their fourth-straight 100-yard rushing game and ninth in 13 games.
“The offensive line and their ability to get to the second level allowed us to get some of those 12- to 15-yard runs,” coach Mike Zimmer said.
Sunday wasn’t the Vikings offense’s “best start,” McKinnon admitted, but one drive in the second quarter encapsulated this one for Minnesota. Nine plays, 53 yards and a touchdown all came from Vikings running backs, capped by McKinnon’s touchdown catch sprung by Rudolph setting the pick.
The Vikings turned to their backfield again at the end, to the cheers of purple-clad fans creeping into the front rows previously occupied by Falcons fans. McKinnon and Murray picked up 17 yards on four handoffs, including Murray’s 3-yard run to effectively end it with a first down.
Afterward, Murray motioned to the corner of purple and incited cheers by raising his arms.
“I’m just happy we came out here against a really good team and found a way to win,” Murray said. “Our fans travel really well and I was trying to satisfy them.”