MINNEAPOLIS -- After struggling to find the endzone in the previous two games, the Vikings offense exploded with rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater making his first career start in a 41-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

Bridgewater took the offense's first possession down the field efficiently, culminating in a short touchdown plunge by running back Matt Asiata.

The Vikings much-maligned running game finally broke lose today, with Asiata running for 78 yards on 20 carries and three touchdowns.

Rookie running back Jerick McKinnon flashed his potential as a playmaker, running 18 times for 135 yards including a 55-yard slasher that got the Vikings out of the shadow of their own goal line.

Bridgewater scored his first career NFL touchdown, scrambling out of a potential sack and diving into the endzone which gave the Vikings a 21-14 lead before the end of the first half.

The Vikings looked to take a 14-point lead late in the first half as McKinnon seemed to cross the goal line for a touchdown, but was called short after review.

The Vikings kicked a field goal to make it 24-14 at halftime.

The game became close in the second half as Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan led two touchdown drives highlighted by poor tackling by the Vikings defense.

Known Viking killer Devin Hester took a short pass 36 yards for a touchdown with missed tackles by defensive backs Captain Munnerlyn and Shawn Prater.

The Falcons took a one-point lead on their next possession on a sweep by Falcons running back Antone Smith 48 yards.

Trailing 28-27, Bridgewater led a clutch touchdown drive that was capped off by a gutsy, 4th-and-goal touchdown dive by Asiata.

The previous play, Bridgewater injured his left ankle and had to be taken into the locker room for x-rays.

After the Vikings defense forced an Atlanta punt on the ensuing possession, third-string quarterback Christian Ponder came into the game and led the offense to field goal range.

Ponder was granted a favor as the starting field position was near midfield as Marcus Sherels returned the punt 24 yards.

Kicker Blair Walsh nailed a clutch, 55-yard field goal to make the score 38-28

With a 10-point lead, the defense made its biggest play - an interception by safety Harrison Smith that all but sealed the game.

Following a clock-melting field goal drive, Atlanta drove down the field in garbage time - getting to the Minnesota 32 yard line before Matt Ryan's last-second prayer was picked off near the goal line by cornerback Josh Robinson.

Other Observations:

- The score may not have indicated it, but the Vikings defense seems for real. Aside from a few boneheaded mistakes and missed tackles, the defense held the NFL's highest-scoring offense at bay for much of the game.

Teddy Bridgewater finished with 317 yards passing - the highest ever in a debut by a Vikings rookie quarterback. He could've had nearly 400 if his deep pass to a wide-open Jarius Wright wasn't a yard too long.

- Speaking of, Jarius Wright played out of his mind. The third-year receiver caught eight balls for 132 yards on 10 targets.

- Rookie outside linebacker Anthony Barr recorded a sack for the second straight game and wore the "green dot" on his helmet, which means the defensive calls were sent in to him.

- Fans have to love the gutsy nature of Head Coach Mike Zimmer. His call to go for it on fourth-and-short in the third quarter helped to put the game out of reach of the Falcons.

With the win, the Vikings improve to 2-2 and have a short week before traveling to Lambeau Field in Green Bay to take on the Packers on Thursday night.