ATLANTA – During the Vikings’ first defensive series of the game against the Falcons, cornerback Terence Newman told his teammate Xavier Rhodes to calm down.

The Vikings’ 14-9 victory over the Falcons was their eighth in a row, but given the circumstances – shutting down a potentially explosive playoff-contending NFC opponent on the road – this might be their most impressive win of the season so far.

The Vikings have bigger-picture issues at stake – can they overtake the Eagles to get home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs? Can Case Keenum keep performing at such a level that t is no quarterback controversy to contend with?

T will not be one again this week – Zimmer quickly declared Keenum will start against the Carolina Panthers in Week 14 – because Keenum and the offense played a virtually mistake-free game.

The Vikings were 6 of 12 on third-down attempts, and Keenum’s best moments came with the game in the balance.

It gave the Vikings the lead, and after the Falcons failed to score on a drive midway through the fourth quarter, Keenum and the Vikings executed a five-minute drill to end the game.

None of Keenum’s passes were big, dynamic throws, but they were on-target and safe, which is enough for a team with a defense as good as the Vikings have, and good enough to keep Teddy Bridgewater on the bench, perhaps for the rest of the season.

The quarterback situation will be one of the most tantalizing storylines of the final month of the season and beyond, and Keenum’s aptitude clearly has surprised the Vikings.