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Who’s To Blame for the Josh Dobbs Pitch Play That Went Horribly Wrong?

Making sense of the most controversial play from Sunday night’s game.

Minnesota Vikings v Denver Broncos Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

It’s 3rd and 1 on the Minnesota Vikings’ opening drive, and Kevin O’Connell has a trick up his sleeve. Rather than simply having Josh Dobbs hand the ball off to Alexander Mattison or calling an RPO, Kevin sends T.J. Hockenson under center so he can pitch the ball to Joshua Dobbs on a designed run to the outside. Christian Darrisaw, K.J. Osborn, and Alexander Mattison are all out in front of Dobbs as blockers, which sounds promising considering that the Vikings only need to get one yard.

Yet, the play is blown up in large part due to Dalton Risner not being able to get out in space quick enough to prevent Alex Singleton (#49) from getting into the backfield. The pressure from Singleton forces Dobbs to cut inside, and that’s where things started to get messy. Baron Browning (#56) strips the football from Dobbs, and then Kareem Jackson (#22) comes flying in and makes forcible contact with his helmet which sends the ball mid-air and the Broncos defense ends up recovering the fumble.

I’ll get into all of the Kareem Jackson shenanigans later, but I want to give my thoughts on the play itself. Personally, I had no problems with Kevin O’Connell’s decision to call this play. Josh Dobbs’ biggest strength is his running ability, so it makes sense that O’Connell wanted to utilize that facet of his game within structure. This was also the opening drive and those plays tend to be scripted, so this particular play was likely rehearsed multiple times in practice leading up to the game.

Assuming that’s the case, Kevin O’Connell was probably expecting one of two things to happen. Either the Vikings convert on 3rd and 1 with Dobbs running safely out-of-bounds to avoid contact, or the play is blown up immediately and Dobbs goes out-of-bounds losing yardage. Even if Dobbs isn’t able to reach the sideline in time, he still would’ve had the chance to slide and give himself up short of the line to gain.

There is no reason why Josh Dobbs should’ve been in a position to fumble the ball in that situation. Maybe you can blame Risner for not getting to the second-level fast enough, and part of me thinks that play would’ve been successful with Ezra Cleveland at left guard given his athleticism. At the end of the day though, Dobbs needs to make the smart decision and live to fight another down. Not only did Dobbs fail to protect the football on a simple pitch play where he could’ve easily given himself up or used the sideline as his friend, but he also damn near injured himself in the process which would’ve forced Nick Mullens to start for the remainder of the game. No one wants to see that.

You know what’s worse than watching Nick Mullens play in a regular season game? Kareem Jackson flying in like a meteor to lay a cheap shot on the Passtronaut. Kareem has quite the history with cheap shots this season...

In Week 1, Kareem Jackson led with his helmet and absolutely laid out Raiders WR Jakobi Meyers, for which he was fined a mere $14,189. The following week, Kareem Jackson had an even more absurd cheap shot on Commanders tight end Logan Thomas who ended up leaving the game with a concussion. Jackson was ejected from the game and fined $19,669. Even then, the NFL chose not to suspend him. It wasn’t until his hit on Packers tight end Luke Musgrave in Week 7 where Jackson was issued a 2 game suspension. Which ended just in time for Kareem to get his 4th major cheap shot on Sunday Night Football against the Vikings!

Justin Simmons and other Broncos players tried defending Kareem Jackson’s hit on Josh Dobbs. Simmons’ argument is that Dobbs was essentially a running back on that play and there was no other way for Jackson to prevent Dobbs from falling forwards for the first down. Meanwhile, Patrick Surtain II gave a less constructive response, with him tweeting: “This league something else lmao! How you supposed to play ball nowadays?”

Here’s a friendly suggestion: Don’t unnecessarily lead with your helmet! Dobbs was already in the process of being stripped of the ball, so any sort of legal contact would have been sufficent in forcing it out. That being said, I can’t be too upset at the payers who are simply trying to defend their teammate. Hopefully their head coach will use this as a teachable moment on what is and isn’t proper tackling technique!

Minnesota Vikings v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Oh no... I wouldn’t get your hopes up.


So who’s to blame for the Josh Dobbs pitch play that went horribly wrong? As much as I’m tempted to blame Sean Payton and Kareem Jackson for everything, Josh Dobbs could’ve avoided that situation. Risner also could’ve done a better job preventing Singleton from getting into the backfield so quickly. The play design wasn’t bad at all, so I think it would be unfair to blame Kevin O’Connell for the fumble. If I had to put a number on it, I’d put 75% of the blame on Dobbs and 25% on Risner.

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