MINNEAPOLIS – Joshua Dobbs leaned on a little guidance to find the Vikings home locker room, but he had no problem finding the end zone.
Dobbs scored his second rushing touchdown in as many games for Minnesota, having now been part of the team less than two full weeks.
Cameras had earlier shown the quarterback getting a pointer from a security employee as he left an elevator. But after locating the locker room and getting suited up, he couldn't have looked more comfortable.
Dobbs showed his mobility throughout the afternoon, keying a quick start that the Vikings protected for a 27-19 win over the Saints for their fifth straight win.
His rushing touchdown occurred on a third-and-6 with under four minutes remaining in the first half. Though only 7 yards from the end zone, he traveled plenty more than that as he evaded the initial rush wave, spun out of another close situation, ran to the left while still looking for an open man, then tucked the ball and ran it in himself.
"I went through my entire progression. They did a tremendous job. They were in two-high shell and did a good job covering guys up," Dobbs explained. "The Mike [linebacker] took my first progression, the Will [linebacker] took my second, and the safeties kind of X-ed out the back end-line throws. So when that happens, I thought the o-line all day allowed me the opportunity to go through my reads and stay in the pocket and then, when the opportunity presented itself, be able to utilize my legs and make plays.
"I was able to go through my entire progression, work through it, see everything was covered, and then from there it's just, 'Go make a play,' " Dobbs continued. "A big play in the game, man. It's third down, it was a four-point swing, so to first get a first down and then get in the end zone was tremendous for us as an offense and as a team."
Left tackle Christian Darrisaw played his first game with Dobbs, after missing last week's game at Atlanta with a groin injury. But he's already getting accustomed to what the quarterback can do.
"You just know the play is never over," Darrisaw said. "It's kind of like a thing in our room where it's nonstop, just finish every play until the whistle blows. Josh made magic work with his legs with that touchdown.
"We just finish our blocks, stay on our guys, he has the ability with his legs to make those plays," Darrisaw added. "It was definitely like Houdini."
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell even looked a bit mystified on the sideline, smiling up at the fans and videoboard replay. He exchanged high-fives with Dobbs, who offered the Michael Jordan shrug as he trotted off the field.
"I like to fist pump with the best of them, but that was one where I was kind of just 'Wow.' I was gonna tip my hat to the Saints – they ran a zone coverage there on third down, they got a little pressure in there on him," O'Connell said. "But when a guy makes a play like that, it's exciting. It's exciting because you know he just overcame a lot with an individual effort right there."
Dobbs' determination shined in that moment, but he made sure to credit the teammates around him for helping the offense hum.
Dobbs' favorite target of the day proved to be tight end T.J. Hockenson, who showed incredible toughness after entering Sunday's contest already dealing with banged-up ribs/oblique. Hockenson racked up 11 catches for 134 yards – totaling 10 for 128 in the first half.
Minnesota's offense truly fired on all cylinders in the first two quarters, starting with an opening series that saw Dobbs take a deep shot to a double-covered Jordan Addison for a 27-yard gain.
Though they started out having to settle for a 40-yard Greg Joseph field goal, the Vikings scored their first touchdown of the day to open the second quarter. From the 2-yard line, center Garrett Bradbury snapped directly to Ty Chandler, who got in for his first NFL score.
"I felt like, 'Man, I better get this ball in the end zone,' " Chandler said of hearing the play call. "I'm grateful I got it in there."
O'Connell told reporters the play had been installed earlier in the week, in an effort to add creative options against a stout Saints front.
"We wanted to try to see different ways we can try to get numbers at the point and still have an opportunity to punch it in, but also give ourselves an advantage of making them react on the fly," O'Connell said. "I thought our guys executed it [well]. As soon as I saw big C.D. (Darrisaw) out there with really one guy left, I thought we were in good shape."
Chandler pointed out the Wildcat play hadn't been designed explicitly for him.
"We repped it a time or two. I'm not going to say it's specifically for me," he said. "We've got a bunch of great running backs. Anybody in our room could have run that play. I'm grateful for the opportunity."
Asked how he felt about a play that didn't involve the QB touching the ball, Dobbs chuckled.
"I'm all for touchdown plays, so I wasn't complaining too much," he said. "I thought it was cool Ty got his first touchdown with it. Obviously as a quarterback, the first thing you worry about is logistics. Like, 'OK, the clock should be running down … I've gotta make sure I'm set [before the snap],' and then obviously [you have to] protect yourself once you get out there. But … anytime you're able to keep the defense on their heels, switch it up, give them something different, a new wrinkle, it's tough to stop."
The Vikings squeaked their third touchdown in just before halftime.
Minnesota's defense forced one of many three-and-punts by New Orleans on the day, and Dobbs and Company got the ball back with 1:47 left in the second quarter. They advanced the ball to the Saints 23, then were backed up to the 28 after a false start penalty on Hockenson.
On first-and-15 from the 28, Dobbs found Hockenson for the score. He bruised his way into the end zone, crossing the goal with 16 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Vikings went into halftime with a 24-3 lead, marking the first time they've scored 24 points through the first two quarters since Oct. 13, 2019.
They struggled a bit to keep their foot on the gas in the second half, but Minnesota protected the football, netted another field goal and appreciated work by the defense, which grabbed two interceptions in the fourth quarter to outlast New Orleans for the win.
Dobbs finished his first start as a Viking 23-of-34 passing for a career-high 268 yards and one touchdown with a 101.1 passer rating. He was sacked just once.
Hockenson led the way with his 134 yards through the air, followed by Addison with four catches for 69 yards. On the ground, Chandler led with 15 carries for 45 yards. Dobbs racked up 44 rushing yards himself, and Alexander Mattison had eight carries for 27 yards before leaving the game with a concussion.
Minnesota now has the longest current win streak in the NFC, improving to 6-4 on the season after an 0-3 start.
As the Vikings look to their next game, a Sunday Night Football contest at Denver, they have confidence in themselves as a team but also won't stop working.
"Compliments to our football team, our leadership, and just the way these guys now believe in the man next to them and they believe in each other to go continue and improve," O'Connell said. "There's still a long way to go. We've got to get a lot better. I've got to continue to coach better."
And as for Dobbs?
He's just looking to keep working with his new teammates – the names of which he knows now, he assured.
"I'm blessed to be in the position I am. I'm grateful for this opportunity," he said. "No stone will not be turned over whether, you know, it's growing in the offense, creating simulated reps in the facility or studying the defense we're going to play. They'll continue to adjust to try to slow us down. … So I'm a constant student of the game.
"It's great to have a tremendous support group around me with my teammates," Dobbs added. "They were helping me prepare [and] it was a team effort. So shout-out to those guys, and I'll be excited to get back to work with them this week."