ATLANTA (AP)—Gus Frerotte erased a very bad memory in his return to the Georgia Dome.
A year ago, Frerotte started for the hapless Cincinnati Bengals, was benched after he failed to complete his first seven passes and watched the rest of a 30-3 loss from the bench.
On Sunday, he got some payback against Atlanta. Starting his second straight game for Minnesota, Frerotte threw two touchdown passes and helped keep the Vikings unbeaten with a 39-26 victory over the Falcons.
“It was a rough day back when I was with the Bengals,” Frerotte remembered. “I got hit hard a lot that day. Things weren’t as positive there as they are here.”
Moe Williams ran for a pair of second-half touchdowns as the Vikings (5-0) outscored Atlanta 27-6 over the final two quarters.
The Falcons (1-4) lost their fourth in a row, suffering the further indignity of being called for two penalties that resulted in safeties.
Doug Johnson was flagged for intentionally grounding the ball to avoid being tackled in the end zone. Then, left tackle Bob Whitfield capped a miserable game by literally tackling Lance Johnstone as he was closing in on a sack of Johnson in the end zone.
“I don’t think they’re as good as we are,” Johnson said. “When you’re playing at home, you’re supposed to beat teams you’re better than. It’s very frustrating.”
Johnson, who is starting in place of Michael Vick, hasn’t been able to match the success of Minnesota’s backup. The Vikings haven’t missed a beat with Frerotte filling in for Daunte Culpepper, winning the last two games by a combined score of 74-33.
Frerotte completed 14 of 24 passes for 239 yards against the Falcons, including two throws that picked up more than 50 yards.
“I grew up in Pittsburgh in the ’70s, with all that `We Are Family’ stuff with the Pirates,” Frerotte said. “It’s kind of like that here.”
It wasn’t that way in Cincinnati. He never threw another pass for the Bengals after his woeful day in Atlanta.
Frerotte wound up in Minnesota as a backup, only to get pressed into duty when Culpepper broke several small bones in his back Sept. 21 against Detroit.
For one half, at least, it looked as if Atlanta coach Dan Reeves would finally get his 200th victory. The Falcons led 20-12 at halftime, Johnson was playing well at quarterback and the defense was containing the high-powered Vikings.
It didn’t last. Reeves fell to 0-for-4 in his pursuit of No. 200.
Frerotte connected with Randy Moss on a 17-yard touchdown, and the Vikings made a 2-point conversion to tie it at 20. Moss’ catch was a thing of beauty— he leaped over cornerback Kevin Mathis to grab the ball, then somehow got both feet down before tumbling out of bounds.
Moss also had a 32-yard touchdown in the second quarter, beating Mathis on a post route. The second TD came after Moss was called for offensive pass interference against cornerback Ray Buchanan, wiping out a touchdown.
“I was kind of mad,” Moss said. “Each week, I get pass interferences against me and they don’t call it. I was just trying to get my hands up to make a play, and he was bumping me and pushing me. I was just trying to get the guy’s hands off me.”
Minnesota went ahead for good with 2:46 left in the third quarter. Frerotte’s 51-yard pass to Kelly Campbell pushed the Vikings deep into Atlanta territory, and Williams scored on an 11-yard run.
Williams finished off the Falcons with a 5-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter, though Minnesota tacked on a safety and Aaron Elling’s second field goal for good measure.
The Falcons scored two touchdowns in the final seven minutes of the first half to take a lead to the locker room. Warrick Dunn ran 8 yards for a TD after T.J. Duckett broke off a 55-yard run. Peerless Price scored his first TD for Atlanta on a 6-yard reception with just 10 seconds left in the half.
Johnson threw for 352 yards and Price finally had a breakout game with the Falcons, catching 12 passes for 168 yards. Not that it mattered.
Atlanta fell apart over the final two quarters, leaving the team in dire straits with the return of Vick still at least two weeks away. He broke his right leg in the preseason.
The Falcons have given up 103 points in three home losses this season, drawing lusty boos from a sellout crowd that expected so much more out of this team.
“We were on the brink after we lost two in a row,” Price said. “We need awin, and we need one in a hurry. This is bad.”
The Vikings clearly decided to focus on the running game after falling behind at halftime. They gained just 31 yards in the first half—and finished with 166. The Falcons came in as the league’s 28th-ranked team against the run. … Minnesota has won its first five games for the second time in four years. In 2000, the Vikings started 7-0. … Johnson had career highs in passes (40),completions (28) and yards. … Moss had five catches for 81 yards.