Vikings cough up chance to clinch NFC North

Tarvaris JacksonThere are several times throughout a season when a team can look back at and say, “Damn, that’s a game we should have had.”

Minnesota’s 24-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday was one of those games.

For all intents and purposes, the Vikings should have beaten the Falcons at the Metrodome. But they fumbled four times – thrice in Atlanta territory – and failed to beat a team they essentially dominated for four quarters.

Okay, so dominant might be a bit strong. The Falcons still ran the ball well and Matt Ryan played mistake-free despite not doing anything exceptional the entire game. But for Minnesota to do whatever it wanted to offensively and still suffer a home loss has to be demoralizing.

The Falcons held Adrian Peterson to under 100 yards (76 to be exact), but it helped that AP couldn’t hang onto the ball. He fumbled twice in Atlanta territory and once more late in the fourth quarter, but was fortunate that his teammate hopped onto the loose ball and saved another disastrous situation. And despite having another nice day passing, Tarvaris Jackson (22 of 36 for 233 yards, 2 TDs) fumbled once and had a bad snap whiz by his helmet in the second half, which forced the Vikings to punt deep in their own territory.

Minnesota essentially shot itself in the foot all day and never recovered, although they did have a shot to at least tie the game in the end by their final drive ended on downs. The Falcons are a nice ball club and they’ll certainly take a win in a tough environment, but the Vikings have to feel like they had a golden opportunity slip through their hands (literally).

Now the Bears have hope. A win over the Packers on Monday night would put them in a tie with Minnesota for the division, although the Vikings would still own the tiebreaker. That means Chicago has to win its next two games and have Minnesota lose to the Giants next week. The Bears still have to take care of their own business, but the Falcons just gave them life.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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