The Vikings improved to 5-4 Sunday with a 31-28 victory over the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
It was improbable to say the least, given the shorthandedness of the offense at the start of the game, which was compounded by losing quarterback Jaren Hall and receiver K.J. Osborn to concussions, as well as running back Cam Akers to what Head Coach Kevin O'Connell confirmed Monday is a ruptured Achilles.
"Cam has been phenomenal in our locker room, on the field, with our team," O'Connell said. "He's really enjoyed being a part of this and getting to be with that group every single day, so Cam is pretty bummed out. And quite honestly, when we traded for him and brought him in here, he exceeded all of my expectations, and I'm just really proud of the way he's attacked this.
"We're gonna be with him every step of the way in the recovery from this. Something he's been through before and came back remarkably fast from that," O'Connell added. "And as I told him, that's how he should go about attacking this one the same exact way. I know he'll do that."
Akers previously suffered an Achilles injury on his other ankle in 2021, but he returned at the end of the season in time to help the Rams win Super Bowl LVI. The Vikings acquired Akers in a trade earlier this season.
O'Connell said Hall and Osborn will proceed through concussion protocol, and the Vikings will rely on medical professionals to guide their weeks.
He said Christian Darrisaw and Brian Asamoah II, who were unavailable Sunday, will "probably be limited throughout the week, and we'll see how they progress."
"And then T.J. Hockenson did sustain a rib/midsection injury there, battled through it – unbelievable toughness – and he'll be limited throughout the week, but hopefully we can progress him to have him available, as well," O'Connell added.
Injuries aside, it was a truly remarkable performance off the bench by Joshua Dobbs in his Vikings debut. Dobbs overcame early mistakes to make monumental plays with his arm and legs as teammates did their best to elevate Minnesota (5-4) over Atlanta (4-5).
Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who came off the bench in his pro debut and the Vikings inaugural game to lead an upset of the long-established Bears in 1961, posted a video Monday reacting to what he saw from Dobbs.
Tarkenton had spoken to the current Vikings at the team hotel on the eve of the game.
Daunte Culpepper also texted his thoughts to Vikings Director of Legends Relations Tom West.
"Great job today, Mr. Dobbs! Love the pocket presence, poise and instincts!!," Culpepper wrote.
Before Minnesota's Week 10 home game against New Orleans, here's a deeper look at Week 9.
Next Gen Stats
We've used the word 'improbable' to apply to the Vikings roster status before and during the game, as well as the surrounding circumstances of Minnesota acquiring Dobbs last Tuesday, spending significant time preparing Hall for his first start and then needing to turn to Dobbs on their first possession of the second quarter.
Next Gen Stats creates win probability charts for every NFL game. According to NGS, Minnesota's win probability was as low as 13.3 percent with just 52 seconds remaining and the Vikings facing fourth-and-7 at the Atlanta 34-yard line.
Dobbs eluded pressure and scrambled for a gain of 22 yards, vaulting Minnesota's win probability to 57 percent.
Three plays later, he hit Brandon Powell for a 6-yard touchdown with 22 seconds remaining, driving Minnesota's win probability to 81 percent.
The 22-yard scramble was one of four "remarkable rushes" in the game and ranked 13th in the NFL in Week 9 (not counting Monday's game) by gaining 15 yards above expectations.
Akers ranked 15th by gaining 14 more than expected on a 19-yard rush, and Dobbs' 18-yard touchdown wound up gaining 14 more than expected to rank 16th. Falcons rookie Bijan Robinson ranked 18th with a 14-yard rush that gained 11 more than expected.
Although it wasn't counted in the "remarkable rushes," another play Dobbs made with his legs defied logic. He escaped the grasp on a third-and-10 to avoid a sack and then found running room, picking up a pancake block by Akers to make it 11 yards to the Atlanta 2 and set up a short scoring pass to Alexander Mattison two plays later.
According to Next Gen Stats, Dobbs had just a 7.6 percent chance of picking up the first down when he began his scramble run. He covered 55.6 yards of turf and leaped over Kentavius Street (who had been blocked by Akers) on his way to the first-down marker.
Dobbs finished with career highs of 66 rushing yards and +7.2 in expected points added on seven rushes.
Gone in a flash
The Falcons took a 21-13 lead on Minnesota with 6:54 remaining in the third quarter thanks to a 60-yard touchdown to tight end Jonnu Smith.
According to NGS, Smith topped out at 21.15 mph as he picked up blocks and accelerated toward the end zone. It was the third fastest speed by a ball carrier in Week 9.
The 63 yards covered by Smith wound up being the 17th longest play of the week and topped the list of incredible yards after catch (55 above the expected 7).
The Falcons schemed and executed the screen pass to Smith cleanly. He wasn't hindered.
Hockenson also made the incredible YAC list in Week 9 during his 29-yard reception in the third quarter to convert a second-and-11. NGS expected Hockenson to gain 4 after the catch, but he wound up with 23 for 19 yards above expectation, which ranked seventh.
Hockenson stayed upright through one tackle, spun off another defender, picked up a block from Jordan Addison and nearly powered through two more defenders during the play. Akers rumbled for 19 on the next snap (the run mentioned above), and Dobbs added a 13-yard scramble as Minnesota advanced to the Atlanta 15 in three plays.
Minnesota's five starting offensive linemen — LT David Quessenberry, LG Dalton Risner, C Garrett Bradbury, RG Ed Ingram and RT Brian O'Neill — played all 75 offensive snaps. Quessenberry found out Sunday morning that Darrisaw was going to be out.
Addison (73) and Hockenson (63) led Minnesota's skill players, followed by Trishton Jackson (53), Powell (52) and Mattison (42).
Dobbs played 64 offensive snaps after Hall was injured on his 11th snap of the game.
Three defensive players — linebacker Jordan Hicks and safeties Harrison Smith and Cam Bynum — played all 69 defensive snaps a week after playing all 68 at Green Bay.
Safety Josh Metellus (68), cornerback Byron Murphy, Jr. (67) and outside linebackers D.J. Wonnum (65) and Danielle Hunter (64) each played at least 93 percent of Minnesota's defensive snaps.
Harrison Phillips (41) and Jonathan Bullard (40) led Minnesota's defensive linemen.
From the Inbox
I think yesterday's win over the Atlanta Falcons shows that Joshua Dobbs' talent is real, if given the right situation, a good coach in his ear and plenty of talent surrounding him on the offense, with little to no preparation for the game, he can be successful. And imagine when he gets reps with a starting offense and a better knowledge of O'Connell's playbook. I'm excited to see where he can take us the remainder of the season.
Oh yeah, and Flores' defense continues to shine, especially in the red zone. We are going to be a tough team to beat! Go VIKINGS!
This is a game that I've told a few people may have been just as surprising — maybe even more — than the Vikings overcoming the 33-point halftime deficit last season against the Colts.
Dobbs arrived to a team with a structure that had been in place since last season with so many players who had helped Minnesota prevail in all the close games of 2022, emerging from wild games.
This defense continues to impress the way they are coming together.
If the young QB is cleared to play, will the Vikings give him a chance to prove what he can do, or will they stay with the veteran?
— Chester Aanden in Cooperstown, North Dakota
I vote for Dobbs to be starter. Why? He is a very good scrambler and passer. Cousins, Hall and others are not scramblers. Dobbs is a winner and reminds me of Tarkenton.
— Michael Braun
I hope that's not the last we see of Hall. After he recovers, I hope he gets another chance to lead the team. His drive and pass was perfect before he got hurt. Due respect to Dobbs it was a great win. I believe he also beat Dallas before losing a bunch. Don't forget Hall can also run and is a more accurate passer. But for Hall, passing comes first.
— Bob Latterell
I'm combining the comments from Chester, Michael and Bob since they are so closely related.
First, we want to wish Hall well in his recovery and advancement through the protocol.
Honestly, I don't yet know the answer to Chester's question. Hall obviously has more time on task with the playbook and teammates, but Dobbs has more NFL experience and showed quick transference.
Dobbs' ability to scramble and escape definitely played a major role in Sunday's outcome and provide a key bridge to the gap of experience with the Vikings and in this system.
I thought Hall's first two series were very nice. The first started with bad field position, so he protected the football, and the Vikings punted. The second featured an impressive pass to Mattison for a gain of 47 yards, which was 18 longer than any pass play by Minnesota the rest of the game.
We'll wait and see what O'Connell and his staff determine, but what should be encouraging is the way that group is showing it can have positive effects on quarterbacks. The Vikings could wind up needing more from both quarterbacks as this season progresses.
Bottom line, I expect both will be tremendous teammates, with Kirk Cousins devoting time to helping the rest of the position group as he recovers.
Not to ruin the buzz but what are your thoughts on Dobb's adding a fumble or two per game (just look at his stat sheet for the year) to a team who already is one of the most turnover prone teams in the NFL?
— Signed, "Concerned"
A safety and a fumble lost on the first two series caused some consternation for good reasons, but my takeaway was the way teammates helped lift the newcomer out of those mistakes.
The defense impressively limited the damage as possessions that began at the 1 and the 30 resulted in field goals by the Falcons instead of touchdowns.
Then, Dobbs showed his appreciation for the help with composure and key play-making ability.
I have one quick comment. Somehow, someway get Dalvin Cook back! The running game needs help and with Akers out for the year, the running game can't be the weak link on the team. Don't mortgage the future for Cook, but he wants out of N.Y., and the Vikings have an opening. I think it would benefit Mattison, too. It's a Win-Win, get it done. SKOL!
— Al Lindberg in Denmark, Wisconsin
Akers was really contributing and had brought such a great spirit to add to the locker room. The Vikings haven't been able to consistently get the ground game going with rushing, especially without Justin Jefferson in the lineup, but Mattison's day catching the football was probably downplayed a bit because of all the other wildness Sunday.
His 47-yard reception set up Minnesota's first field goal of the game to tie the score at 3, and he also caught a 2-yard touchdown just before halftime.
Now that the trade deadline has passed, Cook will remain a Jet, regardless of interest from any other team unless New York somehow decided to release him. He's entering Monday night's game with 41 carries for 114 yards and no touchdowns this season — a major departure from four straight seasons of 1,100-plus yards on the ground.
One stat from yesterday's game that no one is talking about is the lack of penalties by the Vikings. They had one penalty for 4 yards. Given the circumstances — away game, new quarterback, Quessenberry in for Darrisaw, etc., etc. — I think that is remarkable. Hats off to all the players and coaching staff!
— John in St. Paul
I did mention that nugget in my game observations story but probably didn't give it the full attention it deserves.
O'Connell referenced last Wednesday's "What it Takes" team meeting in which he outlines keys to victory as the practice week starts.
"I said so much of this game will be won pre-snap, meaning no penalties, regardless of all the excuses we have to say, 'This is why we jumped offsides, this is why we lined up wrong, I didn't get this rep here.' I just told them point blank none of that would be a part of our story this weekend and those guys were phenomenal," O'Connell said.
I traveled from Connecticut, and my son drove from Nashville to see the game. We met the Atlanta Vikings fan members — SKOL Atlanta. It was an awesome, fun time, and the best part was, of course, the game! What a roller-coaster ride! A few hiccups, but an incredible game and win!!! So glad we made the trip! The best part was watching my 16-year-old granddaughter screaming her heart out at her first game!
— Pamela DePaoli
I absolutely loved reading about this. What a cool way for three generations of family members to keep stitching the purple thread.
This was another road game that I traveled to via commercial flight (because of another assignment before the game). The Delta flight back late Sunday night was filled with people in their Vikings gear, and I continue to be amazed at how well the fanbase packs road games.
Thanks for extending your passion to the next generations and your family's efforts to make it to the game.