1st Down: T.J. Hockenson had a bit of a rough first half of this season. After a training camp "hold in", he dropped a few catchable balls that led to chatter about his hefty price tag. While the goldilocks TE will never have the all-around ceiling of a Tony Gonzalez (past) or Travis Kelce (present), he proved again that he can completely take over a game from time to time. Today, it was 11 catches, 134 yards, and a score--basically all in the first half! With the Saints bottling up Jordan Addison on the outside, Josh Dobbs continually found The Hock over the middle, including the big strike right before halftime. T.J.'s ribs probably feel like the slab of beef that Rocky Balboa was pummeling in 1976, but he showed tremendous toughness in giving the Vikings that big lead heading into the locker room.
2nd Down: Coming into this game, the big story was whether Dobbs could carry over last week's magic. The short answer: he did (23/34, 268 yards, 1 TD). It wasn't a world-beating stat line--and didn't have to be after that tremendous first half--but he proved (to me, at very least) that he could make all the throws necessary. Yes, that pass to Addison was ill-advised, if successful--but on this team full of offensive stars such risk plays pay off more than other squads. His legs allowed him to escape numerous jams again. While his ability to push the ball deep downfield isn't at the Kirk Cousins level yet--and quite frankly may never be--his elusive attributes have more than made up for it. As long as he doesn't get too reckless, he'll give this team a chance to win every week.
3rd Down: Seeing the team almost cough up a three-score lead in the second half wasn't exactly pretty, but that is largely a consequence of being unable to run the ball effectively. 125 ground yards doesn't look shabby--until you consider 44 were from the QB. Mattison was again ineffective--and then got hurt. Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu showed some promise, so perhaps a glimmer of hope for next week. This utterly ineffective run game will come back to bite KOC as badly as the defense did last year if something isn't figured out.
4th Down: Despite that sphincter-clinching second half, I'll still maintain that Flores put together a good gameplan against the Saints. After Derek Carr left the contest, Jameis Winston made a few throws--that were also improbably reeled in by NO's talented WR corps--which were miracle-type completions. Had any one of those fallen to the U.S. Bank Stadium turf, or had Dobbs not slipped on that late third down run, this game could have been put away far earlier. Whether Carr or Winston under center, there were times when both looked equally flustered by Flores' fluid fronts.
XP: As good as it always feels to beat the Saints, it would feel even better to beat Sean Payton's new club at altitude next Sunday night. Perhaps the return of Justin Jefferson?! Either way, it is a very do-able task if today's effort shows up again!