Going into the game against the Falcons, the Vikings were facing challenging circumstances. Starting quarterback Kirk Cousins was out for the season. Backup quarterback Nick Mullens was on IR. Star wide receiver Justin Jefferson was on IR. And then top left tackle Christian Darrisaw was ruled out just prior to the start of the game.
Rookie Jaren Hall got his first start, but after a promising start, all things considered, he suffered a concussion on a run near the goal line and was quickly ruled out for the game. That left QB4 Josh Dobbs, acquired five days ago, to finish the game.
Josh Dobbs Overcomes Tough Start, Balls Out
It was a pretty ugly start for Josh Dobbs after he was thrust out there backed up in negative territory. He ended up getting sacked for a safety. His second drive wasn’t any better as he gave up a fumble deep in negative territory.
Dobbs’ third drive didn’t start much better either, with two stuffed runs leading to third-and-long. But Dobbs was able to connect with KJ Osborn for a first down. Osborn was some how able to hold on to the ball despite getting knocked out on a helmet to helmet hit. He left the game with a concussion, further depleting the Vikings’ offensive starters. But after continuing to drive, Dobbs was able to convert a 3rd-and-10 at the 13 on his feet, then converted a TD with a pass to Alexander Mattison.
It wasn’t smooth sailing from there, however, as on the first drive of the second half, Dobbs was hit and the ball went right to Falcons DT Kentavious Street. It was ruled a fumble.
The next drive ended with a field goal in the red zone, followed by a punt, and then a touchdown drive capped by an 18-yard TD scramble by Dobbs. The Vikings converted a two-point attempt to tie the game at 21 with 2:20 left in the third quarter. Taylor Heinicke, QB for the Falcons, threw a bad interception to Byron Murphy Jr. early in the subsequent drive, leading to a Vikings field goal an a 24-21 lead.
But after the Falcons responded with a touchdown drive to go up 28-24, Dobbs and the Vikings’ offense would not be denied. Big plays by TJ Hockenson, Jordan Addison, and finally Dobbs himself running for 22 yards on 4th-and-7 led ultimately to a 6-yard TD pass to Brandon Powell to take the lead and after a last stop by the defense, win the game, 31-28.
Dobbs finished 20/30 for 158 yards, 2 TDs, 7 rushes for 66 yards and another TD on the ground, an 86.5 QBR and a 101.8 passer rating. His QBR was best among QBs so far this weekend.
With the Vikings going all out to get Jaren Hall up to speed this past week in practice, newcomer Josh Dobbs didn’t get any reps with the first team offense. No snaps with Garrett Bradbury, no throws to any of the receivers. Dobbs, who was acquired on Tuesday, was busy learning the playbook and didn’t even have time to learn players’ names- he admitted in his postgame press conference. Kevin O’Connell said he was doing some coaching and mini-installs during the game with Dobbs over the headset. All that made the result even more special.
Josh Dobbs Highlights
Vikings Defense Keeps Them In The Game
With all the disadvantages, challenges, and miscues for the Vikings offensively in this game, the Vikings really needed the defense to step up and keep the, in the game. And they did. The defense held the Falcons to three punts and three field goals in the first half. They allowed two touchdowns and a field goal in the second half, but also forced two turnovers and got the late stop to seal the victory.
The only real big miscue for the defense was a 60-yard touchdown to Jonnu Smith on a tight-end screen pass. But apart from that, the defense made the Falcons work for everything they got and held them to field goals and punts on most drives while having a 2-2 touchdown-turnover ratio.
Overall, the Vikings appears to be slowly gelling as the season progresses, especially the past few games. They’re amongst the best defenses in terms of fewest explosive plays allowed, while being around average in points and yards allowed. They still need to improve their pass rush, but overall they’re improving and appear to be more comfortable and confident with each game.
This was another expensive victory for the Vikings as Jaren Hall and KJ Osborn were lost to concussions, while Cam Akers is feared to have suffered an Achilles injury- the second in as many weeks for the Vikings. If confirmed, Akers would be lost for the season. Additionally, TJ Hockenson was battling a rib/oblique injury while Brandon Powell was battling some cramps but both remained in the game.
With Jaren Hall entering concussion protocol, Josh Dobbs will undoubtedly be the starter at quarterback next week against the Saints. Unclear at this point who will be the backup, however, if Hall is not able to pass concussion protocol by next Sunday. Nick Mullens is still on IR and unclear if he’s healthy enough to return to the active roster. Sean Mannion remains on the practice squad, but could be activated if no option is available. Cam Akers was the backup in Atlanta after Hall exited the game, but even Akers has been injured.
No Quit in This Team
Despite the mounting adversity this team has faced this season, beginning with turnovers and bad luck, and continuing with injuries to their best players, the team has not given up. Several players took the unusual step of communicating with GM Kwesi Adolfo-Mensah ahead of the trade deadline saying they wanted to keep the team intact- and not make a lot of trades. They like the roster/locker room and feel confident in their direction, despite the injury setbacks. There is a similar vibe to last season’s team in that they feel they can get it done, whatever the circumstances and despite the adversity they’ve faced this season.
But, despite the stellar performance from Josh Dobbs after a tough start, the question remains whether Dobbs and this Vikings team can compete down the stretch and against better teams than the Falcons. The injury toll is beginning to mount in earnest as well, and that could have an impact.
However, there is at least some light at the end of the tunnel on the injury front. Jalen Nailor was activated from IR on Sunday, although he remained inactive for the game, suggesting he may be an option next week to replace KJ Osborn if he’s unable to clear concussion protocol. Justin Jefferson and Nick Mullens are also eligible to come off injured reserve as well, although it’s unclear if either of them will. Jefferson’s progress has been unclear, and there seems to be more at play as to when he might return. The Vikings could be cautious in bringing Jefferson back, but there could also be other considerations such as the Vikings’ postseason probability.
At this point the Vikings have the 7th seed in the NFC postseason, just a half game behind the Cowboys and Seahawks. The 5th seed is the highest possible without winning the division. According to the New York Times playoff calculator, the Vikings now have a 62% chance of making the playoffs, and that would improve to 78% with a win over the Saints next weekend. Beating the Broncos (3-5), Bears (2-7), and Raiders (4-5) over the following four weeks (bye week comes after the Bears game) would give the Vikings a 98% chance of making the playoffs.
Given the Vikings’ relatively easy schedule over the next four games, I don’t know that there are other teams currently below the Vikings in the NFC seeding that are in a position to overtake them. The Falcons and Commanders are the next two seeds at 4-5. The Bucs are Packers are next at 3-5.
The big thing for the Vikings is if, over the coming weeks, they’re able to solidify decent performance at the quarterback position, continue to gel on defense, while getting back most of their best players, putting them in a position to potentially compete for the division title in late December and do damage in the playoffs in January.
Will the Vikings make the playoffs this season?
This poll is closed