Killer instinct has eluded both the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings through five weeks of the NFL season, a big reason why the teams enter Sunday's meeting in Minneapolis with a combined 1-9 record.
The inability to finish games ultimately cost Falcons coach Dan Quinn his job this week, meaning players had the chance to hear about the lack of a sense of urgency from a different voice: interim coach Raheem Morris.
"At the end of the day, we have to find a way to put our foot on people's throats and end games," Morris said. "That's what has got to happen."
The Falcons (0-5) in 2020 became the first NFL team ever to squander a pair of fourth-quarter leads of 15-plus points in the same season, a testament both to a quick-starting offense and shoddy defense.
While running back Todd Gurley leads the Falcons' rushing attack with 375 yards and five touchdowns, the Atlanta defense is surrendering 32.2 points and 446.0 yards per game.
The Vikings (1-4) and coach Mike Zimmer are coming off their own collapse. Minnesota was on the cusp of handing the Seattle Seahawks their first defeat of the season Sunday night, but a fourth-down conversion attempt deep in Seattle territory late in the game failed, and the Seahawks responded with the winning touchdown on fourth-and-goal with 15 seconds left.
Zimmer noted Wednesday that the Vikings have played a trio of undefeated teams in Green Bay, Tennessee and Seattle, as well as one club, Indianapolis, with two losses. The Vikings lost to both the Seahawks and Titans by a single point.
"We're getting better every week," Zimmer said. "You've just got to keep getting better, and the wins will come."
Veteran Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who has passed for just seven touchdowns through five games, acknowledged the rumblings about his future with the franchise after owner Arthur Blank spoke to the media this week.
Ryan said he can't worry about what he can't control, and pledged to steer the team on an improved course after enjoying success alongside Quinn.
"Some of the best football that I've played has been under Dan," Ryan said. "I've learned a lot from him in terms of leadership and what it means to be a good teammate. Really appreciated his time here and my time spent with him (and) certainly wish him the best with everything he has going for him going forward."
Atlanta may be operating against an undermanned Vikings offense Sunday. Running back Dalvin Cook rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown against Seattle before departing in the third quarter with an abductor strain. Second-year back Alexander Mattison kept the ground game churning, rushing 20 times for a career-best 112 yards.
Zimmer said that an MRI exam on Cook Monday "went pretty well." Cook didn't practice Wednesday.
Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones was held out of Wednesday's practice with a hamstring injury after missing the team's Week 5 loss to Carolina with the ailment. Atlanta may be calling on its defensive line depth against the Vikings, as well. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (back) and defensive ends Dante Fowler Jr. (ankle) and Takk McKinley (groin) were limited in practice.
Jaylinn Hawkins also was held out of the team's first practice under Morris, as the strong safety remains in concussion protocol.
--Field Level Media
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News Breaking News
Key Players to Watch
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- FootOut Sun | out
Hill has missed the last two games with a foot injury, and he will not play Sunday against the Packers.
- HamstringProb Sun | probable
Osborn has sat out the previous two games due to a hamstring injury, but he is anticipated to be available against the Packers on Sunday.
- NeckOut indefinitely | I-R
Hughes has been sent to the injured reserve list for an extended period due to a neck injury.
- WristProb Sun | probable
Samia was absent from the lineup for the last contest due to a wrist injury, but he is expected to line up versus the Falcons on Sunday.
- ThumbQues Sun | I-R
Elflein has been shifted to the Injured Reserve/Non-Football Injury list with a torn ligament in his thumb, and the team will have three weeks to activate him.
- GroinProb Sun | probable
Dalvin missed the previous game with an adductor strain, but he is expected to suit up for Sunday's contest versus the Packers.
- IllnessOut indefinitely | I-R
Dantzler has wound up on the Injured Reserve/COVID-19 list, and it is uncertain how long it will take for him to pass protocol.
- IllnessOut indefinitely | I-R
Davis has been moved to the Injured Reserve/COVID-19 list, and it is unclear how long it will take for him to pass protocol.
- Groinday-to-day | questionable
McKinley sat out the last game with a groin injury, and it remains to be seen if he will suit up Week 9 against the Broncos.
- Headday-to-day | questionable
Sheffield left the last game with a head injury, and it is unclear if he will be available Week 9 versus the Broncos.
- Footday-to-day | questionable
Ridley left the last game with a left mid-foot sprain, and it is unknown if he will play Week 9 against the Broncos.
- KneeProb Thurs | probable
Gage is managing a knee injury, but he is likely to line up against the Panthers on Thursday.
- ConcussionProb Thurs | probable
Hawkins has sat out the last three game due to a concussion, but he is likely to play against the Panthers on Thursday.
- KneeProb Thurs | probable
Mack is battling an injured knee, but it is not anticipated to impede his status for Thursday's clash with the Panthers.
- ElbowProb Thurs | probable
McGary has an injured elbow, but it is not projected to interfere with his status for Thursday's battle with the Panthers.
- HipProb Thurs | probable
Jones is nursing a hip issue, but he is expected to play in Thursday's game against the Panthers.