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Monday Morning Mailbag: Fans' Thoughts Ahead of Vikings vs. Bears on 'MNF'

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

Click here to submit a comment or question to the Mailbag. Remember to include your name and town in the email. If Twitter is your jam, you can send a question to me that way as well.

Happy game day to our readership. I'd again like to express that I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and that even if time was limited instead of extended that it was enjoyed.

The Vikings (6-5) are set to host the Bears (3-8) tonight on Monday Night Football to conclude Week 12 and their two-game series between the longtime division rivals.

Minnesota will be wearing The Classic uniforms the team debuted in Week 1 that are designed to pay homage to the earlier voyages. In that spirit, we had the help of Fran Tarkenton take us all the way back to the beginning.

Tarkenton came off the bench in his first pro game to lead an utterly shocking upset of Chicago on Sept. 17, 1961. Tarkenton was gracious enough to host Vikings consultant Bob Hagan, Senior Producer of Original Content Nate Vaughn and myself at his office on the Friday before Minnesota's game at Atlanta.

Some of the memories Tarkenton shared are in the "Launch Pads" cover story for tonight's Playbook, which also connects to the current Vikings and debuts of Jaren Hall and Joshua Dobbs in the Vikings improbable win against the Falcons. Other Tarkenton stories will be relayed in future content we look forward to executing.

As a reminder, we'll include some reactions by fans to tonight's game in Tuesday's Rehash.

View photos from the Vikings Classic jersey photoshoot. The Classic throwback jerseys will be worn Week 12 of the 2023 season against the Bears on Monday Night Football.

The Vikings receivers catching the ball seem to not know where the first down marker is and run out of bounds too early, too often.

Why is Dobbs not being coached to release the ball sooner?

Dobbs' pivot and run left was greeted way too often by not one but two defenders. He has to mix his run approach differently.

Just some observations to change the non-fumbling part of the game to a winner.

— Steve the SKOL Guy

I think the most glaring recent example of running out of bounds was on the final drive at Denver. Dobbs hit rookie Jordan Addison for a gain of 9 on which the receiver could have turned up field and made it to the sticks and probably still gotten out of bounds to stop the clock. Addison made sure to get out of bounds, which is also important with less than a minute remaining.

Being a yard shy, however, resulted in the Vikings not converting a third-and-1 (Dobbs was sacked for a loss of 0 by Baron Browning) and being forced to use their first timeout.

After that, the Vikings made sure they converted by running a QB sneak, which gained 2 but resulted in the use of a second timeout.

Thus, the ball only advanced from the Minnesota 34 to the 36 and cost two timeouts, which significantly reduced options for the remainder of the drive.

It's a learning opportunity to try to get one more glance at the sticks before going out of bounds in that situation.

Dobbs has been in the offense for less than a month, so there's a good bit of learning on the fly that has continued to happen. The good thing was that Minnesota logged wins at Atlanta and against New Orleans during his first two appearances and had more than ample opportunities to win last week at Denver.

Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell was asked Saturday about defenses using spies to try to reduce Dobbs' threat as a runner.

"I mean they really have one of two choices, and several times in both those games (Saints and Broncos) they decided to take the guy out of the rush and not out of the coverage because they really have one of two choices," O'Connell said.

"You can't – unless they get to sneak 12 on the field, which in my time here has only happened in Buffalo one time; they have to pick from either coverage or rush and a lot of times it might be how they rush, and it might not look like a spy but their integrity of their rush lanes have to be strong, otherwise he's going to get up and out," O'Connell added. "Or, in the back end, it could look like certain coverages that maybe they've shown, but then, whether it's a vision player in man coverage being responsible for the quarterback or somebody in zone trying to play their zone and the quarterback at the same time, so we've seen a little bit of both. Josh has really seen it with the skill set he has. He's got a lot more experience than we do with it just because we've seen it now for really two, three games, and I'm sure we're going to continue to see it with how he's impacted the game with his legs."

With [Justin Jefferson] out for through the bye, it gives him that much more time for healing. It also gives him that much more time getting into sync with Dobbs on practice field.

Do you think that we could see a hell of an air game for the last games and take the league by storm? J.J.'s first game back 180-plus yards?

— Mike Kostelecky in St. Louis

I guess for starters, the Vikings have not made a final game determination for Jefferson's status against the Bears.

Because this game is on a Monday, Minnesota has until 3 p.m. (CT) today to make its decision. The team would have to activate him to the 53-man roster before he returns to the playing field. Jefferson's 21-day window for evaluation began Nov. 8 and will continue beyond this game before a move is required.

There's no real precedent for knowing what to expect when Jefferson does make his return. He's continued to make strides in his recovery, which could be prolonged by holding him out until after the bye week.

O'Connell has been steadfast in not trying to return the receiver before he's as close to 100 percent as possible.

Dobbs has shown a quickly developing rapport with other teammates, so that could bode well for Jefferson. Or, if teams continue to apply the resources toward the All-Pro, then that could help other Vikings get open quicker and faster for Dobbs.

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Bears.

Note: This next email referenced and rebutted the following line I previously wrote: "As an employee of the team, I realize some people might consider what follows as a company line, but I think O'Connell and his returning staff might be doing an even better job of coaching this team this season than last year."

No, in fact, I think they've regressed.

Ty Chandler doesn't get a single touch as a RB until Week 10? Did anybody notice his North Carolina game tape. I know his explosiveness showed up in practice.

Finally, in Week 11, of his second season, Ty gets similar touches to [Alexander Mattison] and shines with the most all-purpose yards of any Viking vs Denver. The only reason Ty finally gets his opportunity is because Kene Nwangwu showed he lacks the vision & ball carrier experience to be an NFL back in his opportunities in Week 10, and injuries depleted all other options.

Also, O'Connell choked it by not calling timeout prior to the Mattison fumble. I was yelling at the TV for a timeout for two reasons. The team looked unsure of alignment and the clock had expired. This was Dobbs' second start. A great coach anticipates that there might come a moment like this. And? CALLS TIMEOUT. Instead, Mattison appeared surprised the play actually went forward. He then fumbles without being touched. Clearly a lapse of concentration.

There's clearly an upgrade from the past regime to the current. However, Sorry [O'Connell], no free passes from...

— "Vic King" in Idaho


  1. To be fair — it's year two [under O'Connell]. Just like players, there's a learning curve. Has [O'Connell] improved from year one? Mmm, I'd say no. Still a rookie learning how to be the best he can be. That Mattison fumble is on Kevin. Put your players in position to succeed is what a coach is paid to do 100 percent. He had three timeouts. They are there to be used, sometimes when the play looks wrong and your QB has less than 200 snaps in the offense. That fumble destroyed the Purple road momentum. I hope Kev' learned a tough lesson there. I think [O'Connell's] eyes lied to him in believing Dobbs has it under control 100 percent, despite his mind knowing No. 15 was in Arizona just [four weeks] ago today.
  1. I love this coaching staff. As Dennis [Green] once said, "crown 'em if you want to..."
  1. The team is better than last year. That's 80 percent [Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores].

Not trying to turn this into a back-and-forth, but I did want to include "Vic's" reaction to my words and thoughts.

I guess evaluating performance depends on the metrics. If the lead metric is production at running back, then it needs to be differentiated from a problem O'Connell didn't have to figure out last year because of what the Vikings had with Dalvin Cook.

There are multiple factors that affect playing time at any position, and quite a few involving running back don't have as much to do with carrying or catching the football. Chandler was filling in for Nwangwu as the team's primary kickoff returner, and while he was in that role, the team seemed less than inclined to have him as involved on the offense.

Now that Nwangwu has returned to that role, it seems like he's not been tasked with playing much on offense. He played three offensive snaps against the Saints in Week 10, totaling 9 yards on two attempts.

Nwangwu has showed good vision as a kick returner with three touchdowns already.

Timeouts are precious resources, so I understand the hesitancy of burning one on a first-and-10 at the Denver 34 while leading 17-9 with 2:52 remaining in the third quarter.

I definitely thought the play clock expired before the snap, and it should have been delay of game on the Vikings, but once the ball is snapped and is handed to Mattison, or anyone else, protecting the pigskin is of utmost importance.

In the greater context of the season, O'Connell and his staff (including but not limited to the awesome job by Flores) have kept the Vikings close in games even when the turnover margins have been poor.

Throw in injuries to Kirk Cousins (plus backup quarterbacks Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall) and Jefferson, and that's quite a bit to mitigate — just on the offensive side of the ball.

Flores has done an excellent job, but I'm not sure how to place a percentage on his impact, but he seems to be maximizing several players and getting them to accomplish success as a unit.

One of the things I continue to observe when the Vikings have a lead in the second half is a shift toward conservative, repetitive play calling. Runs up the middle on first and second downs, which yield little or no yardage, followed by a passing play on third-and-long that everyone knows is coming and typically ends up with a check-down that falls short of a first-down. If I'm repeatedly and successfully predicting this same offensive sequence as an admittedly ignorant fan at home, I have to believe that the defensive coordinators who know a lot more about football are anticipating it on the other side of the ball.

Maybe I'm missing something, but rather than continuing to push the ball downfield and keeping the defense on their toes, which got us the lead in the first-half, we seem to shift to a "let's play not to lose" mindset of run-run-pass-punt in the second half that ends up letting our opponents back into the game or, in the case of the Broncos, leads to a loss.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

— Tommy V. in Pella, Iowa

Tommy is not the only person who has sent in similar sentiments.

I believe some were sent after Minnesota topped Chicago 19-13 in Week 6. Others have followed.

The Saints game opened with the best collective half of football the Vikings have played all season as Minnesota built a 24-3 lead, but then New Orleans bounced back to limit Minnesota to 2-for-9 on third downs in the second half and put up 16 points to just 3 by the Vikings.

The following yardage was needed on third downs faced by the Vikings in the second half against the Saints:

7 (incomplete pass)

5 (scramble for gain of 4)

6 (converted with a 6-yard pass)

7 (a 4-yard pass before a 54-yard field goal attempt that was missed)

10 (converted with a 14-yard pass)

11 (after the touchdown on third-and-1 was nullified by a holding penalty)

12 (after two runs combined for a net loss of 2)

11 (after two runs combined for a net loss of 1)

1 (Dobbs ran for no gain after two runs totaled 9 — the Vikings called a timeout after this play with 15 seconds remaining in the game)

Barely any of those are what could be deemed as third-and-manageable. So even if a scoring spree doesn't continue into the second half, Minnesota can do a better job of setting itself up for sustaining drives better.

Avoiding the third quarter fumble would have likely led to at least a field goal and possible a touchdown, so that would have made the score 20-9 or 24-9, which looks dramatically different than 17-9 and would have allowed Minnesota to run more clock.

I have read a lot of fans on social media that are blaming turnovers and players for the Denver loss.

But it's most often the other team's fault, due to the pressure they are applying with defense and even offense.

When the Vikings rip the ball out or knock it loose, we say it's a great play.

When the other teams do it to us, we blame the player instead of giving credit where it is due.

Even penalties are due to the other team. A lineman, D or O, jumps to beat his guy, or knocks the ball out of his QB's hand trying to get into position to make a block.

Because the D lineman is putting pressure on that O lineman.

Let's all try to remember that mistakes often happen because of the other team's great play.

Now, let's go win another game Monday night.

— R.G. Hughes

There's no doubting that turnovers were an incredibly important part of the Broncos game, and really every Vikings loss so far this season.

But this is a good counterpoint to remember the other teams have NFL players, too.

Denver's defense should get credit for forcing and making the interception of Dobbs, who was hit as he was throwing the football, which caused the errant pass.

Some turnovers are definitely taken away, but others are given away.

It's important to reduce/eliminate unforced errors, particularly when a team is trying to win on the margins in a league that usually is quite narrow.