Josh Dobbs breathed life into the Minnesota Vikings season at the most critical of moments. Replacing the injured Jaren Hall in a Week 9 game in Atlanta, Dobbs trotted on the field only days after being obtained from the Arizona Cardinals in a desperation deadline deal made because of a season-ending Achilles’ injury to Kirk Cousins.
Dobbs limited knowledge of the playbook mattered little as he threw two touchdown passes and ran for another. He guided the winning drive in a 31-28 victory — completing a 6-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Powell with 22 seconds left — as coach Kevin O’Connell provided instructions through the headset.
Dobbs’ Mania followed and continued the following Sunday with a home victory over the Saints that extended the Vikings’ winning streak to five games.
It is all a distant memory now.
After a rough performance in a loss to Denver a week ago Sunday, Dobbs showed Monday night why the Vikings are his sixth stop in his seven-year career and why Nick Mullens likely will be starting when the Vikings return from their bye week to face the Raiders on Dec. 10 in Las Vegas.
The 28-year-old was atrocious in a 12-10 loss to the Chicago Bears. Dobbs’ 17-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Hockenson in the fourth quarter provided a go-ahead score that the Vikings could not hold, but that could not overshadow how poorly Dobbs played for a team that holds a half-a-game lead for the seventh and final playoff spot in the NFC.
Dobbs was intercepted fourth times and nearly had a fifth picked off in the first half that would have been an easy Pick 6, if it hadn’t been dropped. He finished 22-of-32 for 185 yards with a 54.3 passer rating.
“We’re going to take a look and really evaluate the inventory of plays now we have of Josh,” O’Connell said. “We got healthy. We got Jaren back available to us and then Nick Mullens is available as well.” O’Connell also indicated he gave some consideration to playing Mullens on Monday.
The Vikings’ late bye week will give O’Connell plenty of time to consider his options.
It’s unlikely that Hall would be the choice, but Mullens is another story. He has been Cousins’ backup for two years and wasn’t a candidate to start against the Falcons because of a back injury that landed him on injured reserve. Mullens has been back for two weeks, and O’Connell likely will feel comfortable turning to the 28-year-old, who has started 17 of the 24 games in which he has played for San Francisco, Cleveland and Minnesota.
Among the issues with Dobbs is the fact that the longer he has been in O’Connell’s offense, the more uncomfortable he has looked as his coach clearly wants to keep him in the pocket more often. As well as the Dobbs-O’Connell duo worked against the Falcons, on Monday night it looked as if O’Connell was asking Dobbs to play like a quarterback he isn’t.
Dobbs was at fault for his play, but it also was surprising that the mobile quarterback only carried the ball twice for 11 yards after rushing for 142 yards on 25 carries with three touchdown in his first three games in Minnesota.
If O’Connell wants his quarterback to work from the pocket, he should turn to Mullens. What really has to concern O’Connell is Dobbs’ issue with turnovers. If you include Dobbs’ eight starts this season with the Cardinals, he has now thrown 10 interceptions and lost seven of the 14 fumbles he has committed.
Dobbs threw back-to-back interceptions in the second quarter and then had two more on consecutive possessions in the second half. Despite the Vikings’ terrible performance on offense, they took a 10-9 lead in the final quarter after Bears quarterback Justin Fields fumbled as he was being sacked by Danielle Hunter. Sheldon Day recovered at the Vikings’ 23-yard line.
Dobbs put together a respectable drive as the Vikings went 77 yards on eight plays. He completed 4-of-5 passes for 65 yards. But that drive couldn’t mask Dobbs’ struggles, or the fact that O’Connell’s conservative play calling on a late possession enabled the Bears to get the ball back and drive down field to set up a Cairo Santos 30-yard field goal with 10 seconds left.
The Vikings are now back at .500 and will have a week to think about everything that went wrong the past two games. O’Connell also will have a chance to consider his options at quarterback. It won’t be surprising if he selects a starter that isn’t Dobbs.
Judd Zulgad is co-host of the Purple Daily Podcast and Mackey & Judd podcast at www.skornorth.com.