MINNEAPOLIS — Maybe it's good that fans aren't allowed in U.S. Bank Stadium, because the boo birds would have had a field day.
On the first play from scrimmage, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins faked a handoff to Alexander Mattison and then, not under pressure, floated the ball into soft zone coverage for an interception.
By the time Minnesota recovered, it was too late.
Playing against a winless team that fired its head coach seven days earlier, it was Minnesota that looked much more lost than the Atlanta Falcons in a 40-23 loss on Sunday, Oct. 18, at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Head coach Mike Zimmer had no answers for the dud of a performance, one week after Minnesota pushed one of the NFL's best teams, Seattle, to the brink of its first loss of the season.
"We talked about being better coming out of the locker room, and we threw an interception on the first play of the game," he said. "It's just strange.
"We didn't run the ball very well. We obviously had the turnovers, three in the first half. I didn't feel like we challenged the receivers enough today. Special teams, we force a fumble and our guy doesn't recover it. The onside kicks are terrible.
"So to me, that's kind of strange."
Cousins' day was especially bizarre, throwing three interceptions before picking up momentum in garbage time to finish with a respectable 343 yards passing and three scores — but also three interceptions. Minnesota also struggled to establish the running game, rotating Mattison, Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah to little effect.
On the other side of the ball, Atlanta was able to put together a complete game. Julio Jones (hamstring) returned to the lineup after missing last week's game to catch eight passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns, regularly beating rookie cornerbacks Cameron Dantzler, Jeff Gladney and Harrison Hand.
"We respect their talents," safety Anthony Harris said of Jones and fellow Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley, "but at the same time, we take pride in our craft and our ability that we have. To give up big plays... is not the identity we try to play with."
Harris said now is the time for the Vikings (1-5) to take advantage of the bye week to find themselves and turn the season around.
"Now is when you hone in your identity and to look to get better yourself," he said. "It's a week to reflect and really evaluate ourselves, how we can play better and consistent, for four quarters, and be able to come out with a win."