Twenty-six miles from his hometown, Joshua Dobbs orchestrated the first game-winning drive of his seven-year NFL career.
After completing an on-field postgame interview, Dobbs raced through the burrows of Mercedes-Benz Stadium toward a locker room of Vikings he'd met days earlier.
"Let's make sure we let him hear it," Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell shouted as Dobbs approached the Vikings 31-28 victory celebration.
Vikings players, coaches and staffers welcomed Dobbs as their new quarterback with cheers, high fives and shoulder slaps.
In the span of 169 hours — one full week extended by an hour for the time change — he went from starting for the Cardinals to providing relief for the Vikings and quarterbacking a Herculean fourth-quarter comeback.
Below is a timeline of the wild, winding ride that changed his zip code yet returned him to his roots for one of the most improbable NFL stories.
Sunday, Oct. 29
2:38 p.m. (CDT) — Cousins suffers season-ending injury
Nearly 1,900 miles northeast of Phoenix, the Vikings season was drastically altered. Quarterback Kirk Cousins injured his Achilles on a third-and-19 play early in the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers.
3:10 p.m. (CDT) — O'Connell recaps game, processing Cousins' injury
The Vikings finished off the Packers 24-10, but the mood isn't what anyone would expect after a two-touchdown win in a rival's home stadium.
"Thinking of Kirk, our locker room, every single player in our locker room, thinking about our leader, our guy right now. I'm just so proud of him, proud of the way he's played all season long," O'Connell said after the game. "Whatever is the case, if we don't have him for one snap or for the duration of our season, that will not change the fact of what I believe Kirk Cousins, the level he played to this year and ultimately what he's meant to me and our organization, so thinking about him right now."
1:25 p.m. (MST)/3:25 p.m. (CDT) — Dobbs makes his eighth start for Arizona
The Ravens and Cardinals kicked off at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Four minutes in, Dobbs has just finished the Arizona Cardinals first possession against the Baltimore Ravens with a 1-yard touchdown run.
He'll go on to throw for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter with his parents in attendance, but it won't be enough to complete the comeback.
At 4:35 p.m. (MST), the fifth consecutive Cardinals loss is complete, dropping the team to 1-7 on the season.
Dobbs is shifting his focus from the Baltimore Ravens to his upcoming Week 9 opponent, the Cleveland Browns.
After the game, Dobbs said he was encouraged by how the Cardinals scored 17 fourth-quarter points.
He had started every game for the Cardinals after the team traded for him a week before the regular season began. Dobbs threw for 1,569 passing yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions over those eight weeks. He added another 258 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
The week of the Ravens game, his furniture finally arrived in Arizona. For about six days, Dobbs – who played for seven NFL teams (including practice squads) since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 draft – enjoyed stability. With his parents visiting from their home in Alpharetta, Georgia, he was happy to have them in Arizona with him.
Monday, Oct. 30
12:42 p.m. (CDT) — Cousins undergoes MRI
The Vikings announced that an MRI confirmed Cousins suffered an Achilles tendon tear. O'Connell spoke to the media minutes later.
"Regardless of the circumstances, this is a tough break with the momentum we have as a team right now. We have to move forward. Nobody feels sorry for anybody in this league. And we know that. I know that," O'Connell said. "And we're going to move forward in the same kind of attack mode that we are going out and trying to get a win in each and every week."
3:10 p.m. (MST)/5:10 p.m. (CDT) — Dobbs benched
Cardinals first-year Head Coach Jonathan Gannon announced to the media that Arizona would be benching Dobbs as it prepared for the eventual return of Kyler Murray.
"[I] talked to the quarterbacks this morning. We're gonna keep ramping up Kyler and see how he progresses through the week. And if it's not Kyler, then it's going to be Clayton Tune," Gannon said. "So I talked to all three quarterbacks, and we are on the same page with him on how we're going to operate moving forward."
When asked how Dobbs took the news, Gannon responded "like a pro."
Tuesday, Oct. 31
1:15 p.m. (CDT) — Dobbs traded to Minnesota
Dobbs is traded to the Minnesota Vikings, becoming the first quarterback traded twice within the same season since 1994. Arizona had acquired him from Cleveland before Week 1.
1:33 p.m. (CDT) — Logistical phone call with Dobbs
Shortly after the trade was finalized, a Vikings football operations staff member called Dobbs to book his flight, room and get his equipment sizes.
O'Connell also spoke with the quarterback quickly Tuesday after the trade.
"I said, 'I don't know when it'll be, but I can promise you one thing. You're gonna get everything out of us. You're gonna love your teammates. This is the best locker room in the National Football League, and my goal is that this is the best situation you've ever been in and just trust us.' And he's done that."
5 p.m. (MST)/7 p.m. (CDT) — Dobbs' flight to Minnesota
Dobbs boards a flight to Minnesota and lands just before 10 p.m. (CT). In nine hours, he'll start his physical examination inside the athletic training room at Twin Cities Orthopedic Performance Center.
Wednesday, Nov. 1
7 a.m. (CDT) — Dobbs' first day at TCO Performance Center
After passing his physical, Dobbs participates in meetings and begins connecting with teammates.
One of the first coaches Dobbs met and spent extensive time with was assistant quarterbacks coach Grant Udinski.
2:05 p.m. (CDT) — Offensive install begins at first walk-through
Vikings coaches start teaching Dobbs the game plan, but he's mostly an observer because of the desire to have rookie Jaren Hall take as many reps as possible before his first career start.
O'Connell said ensuring Dobbs could learn enough of the game plan to back up Hall would take much of the offensive staff's time. Quarterbacks coach Chris O'Hara spearheaded preparing Hall while Udinski worked with Dobbs.
With Udinski, Dobbs started learning basic offensive terminology, formations and cadences. As the week progressed, Dobbs and Udinski spent time outside of meetings rehearsing the game plan and studying red-zone and third-down situations.
Thursday, Nov. 2
12:15 p.m. (CDT) — Meeting with media
Dobbs speaks to local media at his new locker inside the Vikings locker room.
"It caught me off guard. Honestly," Dobbs said about being traded. "After the [Ravens] game was first announced, I was starting, you know, for the Cardinals, including this upcoming week. And the next 36 hours were a little crazy after that. So I was surprised, but you know, at this point of my career, my journey, you're not too surprised about anything happening, right?"
1:10 p.m. (CDT) – Vikings practice
The Vikings hit the field to continue preparing for the Falcons and follow the on-field activities with meetings.
Friday, Nov. 3
11:50 a.m. (CDT) — Final practice of Week 9
During the week, the Vikings gave every first-team practice rep to Hall to prepare him for his NFL starting debut. Dobbs prepared like the Vikings were playing Thursday after a Sunday.
"I remember I was walking out of here Friday and he's in the indoor [practice field] with Grant going through plays and I looked over and said, 'I'm gonna go pick up my kids.' "Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores said. "You could see the work he was putting in to try to get himself ready."
By Saturday, he told coaches he was ready to execute anything they'd have on the Week 9 call sheet.
"Whether it's no-huddle, whether it's tempo, whether it's our game plan call — whatever it is, I got it," Dobbs said. "If they started pulling stuff from [Organized Team Activity practices from the spring], I might be a little handcuffed out there, but if you put it on the call sheet, I got it."
Saturday, Nov. 4
1:53 p.m. (CDT) — Vikings depart for Atlanta
Minnesota's chartered Delta flight is wheels up and heading for ATL, where the team touched down at 4:48 p.m. (EDT). Buses reached the team hotel in Buckhead at 5:32 p.m. (EDT).
View photos of the Vikings traveling to Atlanta for the Week 9 game against the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium
In addition to team meetings, Dobbs managed to fit in dinner with his parents.
Sunday, Nov. 5
Note: The time change took place overnight, with folks in Georgia, Minnesota and elsewhere setting their clocks back one hour. (Arizona doesn't observe, Daylight Saving Time.) Now that everywhere is on standard time going forward, times will be referred to as ET or CT.
12:13 p.m. (ET) — Quarterbacks take field for warmups
Hall, Dobbs and other teammates warmed up in a custom Kirk Cousins graphic T-shirts before suiting up in their uniforms.
1:02 p.m. (ET) — Kickoff
Vikings kicker Greg Joseph kicks into the end zone, and the Falcons offense starts the game at its 25-yard line.
1:28 p.m. (ET) — Hall suffers concussion
Hall started the game by completing his first five of six passes. His second throw, delivered off-platform after a play-action bootleg, reached Johnny Mundt for a gain of 18 yards. Then Hall surprised and impressed the coaching staff by connecting with running back Alexander Mattison for 47 yards down the right sideline.
In his first NFL start, Hall completed his first five passes for 78 yards before an incompletion on second-and-goal from the Atlanta 4-yard line. The fifth-round rookie amassed a 118.8 passer rating and averaged 13 yards per attempt.
But as is life in the NFL, everything can change on one snap. Hall exited with a concussion on his 11th snap play due to a combo tackle from Falcons defenders Jeff Okudah and Kaden Elliss that bounced him off the turf and out of the game.
"I've been in similar situations. First, it was, 'Jaren, get up. I hope he's OK.' But then it was, 'Hey, if you're playing, you've gotta go out there and play,' "Dobbs said of his thoughts when Hall went down. "The team still expects you to go out and win — and play good football.
"In this league, man, there's never an excuse for your circumstance," he added. "They just want to see you succeed given the circumstance you're given."
Over the next 10 minutes (just 2:30 of game time), Dobbs rehearsed his cadence with the Vikings starting offensive linemen on the sideline, reviewed some plays with O'Hara and practiced exchanges with running backs Alexander Mattison and Cam Akers.
1:35 p.m. (ET) — Hall ruled out
FOX sideline reporter Kristina Pink reported Hall had been ruled out with a concession.
A few minutes prior, Dobbs took his first practice snaps from Bradbury.
"We huddled up on the sideline real quick and were like, 'All right, let's go through our five main cadences,' " right tackle Brian O'Neill said. "Honestly, being on the road, though, probably helped with the silent count in shotgun. We were gonna do that no matter who was in there, on passing downs, shotgun stuff. That helped, for sure. And we were like, 'All right, that's his cadence. Let's roll.'
1:41 p.m. (ET) — Dobbs' first snap with Vikings
O'Connell and his staff quickly formulated a communication process with Dobbs to get the offense into a play call and then to walk Dobbs through his post-snap reads.
"It became the next man up and Josh is getting ready to go," O'Connell said. "My job in that moment is to eliminate the chaos."
O'Connell decoded the Vikings offense for Dobbs by translating his calls into a language that could be understood.
"It's like if you were taking AP Spanish all year and you showed up and on Wednesday somebody said you had an AP French exam on Sunday," Dobbs said. "Somebody is going to talk to you in Spanish and translate it to the French. That's kinda what was going on out there."
1:43 p.m. (ET) — Dobbs tackled for a safety by Calais Campbell
Dobbs and the offense were dysfunctional at first. Two of his first six plays resulted in turnovers and five Falcons points. He took a safety on his third snap, a pass play on third-and-12 from the Minnesota 5-yard line.
1:58 p.m. (ET) — Strip-sack nearly turns into six points
The rough start got rougher when linebacker Arnold Ebiketie forced a fumble during a sack of Dobbs. Lorenzo Carter scooped the ball and returned it 19 yards to the Minnesota 1 before Josh Oliver's hustle helped the big tight end knock Carter out of bounds.
"I mean, we had a couple fumbles. We had a safety. I mean, we've got to be better with ball security in the pocket. And Josh would be the first one to tell you that," Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillip said Nov. 7. "It wasn't all perfect."
2:24 p.m. (ET) — Dobbs scores first Vikings touchdown
The Vikings scored on a 2-yard Dobbs pass to Mattison. The 13-play drive covered 75 yards, including an 11-yard Dobbs' scramble on a third-and-10 that covered 55.6 yards and a first-down probability of 7.6%, according to Next Gen Stats.
3:22 p.m. (ET) — Dobbs' 18-yard rushing touchdown
Dobbs led the Vikings on their third scoring drive and capped it with a 2-point conversion pass to receiver Trishton Jackson to tie the game at 21 with 2:31 left in the third quarter.
"I started to get a pretty good feel with where he was at and his ability to know formations and the intent of certain plays," O'Connell said. "It allowed me to get a little bit deeper into the footwork, what to do with his eyes and what I was thinking as the play-caller, which is pretty similar to what I would do in a lot of situations with Kirk."
4:09 p.m. (ET) — Fourth-and-7
Dobbs found a rhythm running the 2-minute offense, and going no-huddleallowed O'Connell more time to spray information at Dobbs while the 10 other plays got set.
The Vikings trailed by four with 52 seconds remaining. It was essentially fourth-and-game over.
Dobbs received the snap, and chaos ensued. He snuck out of a sack by outside linebacker Bud Dupree, evaded Carter, and raced past the grasp of A.J. Terrell before stepping out of bounds at the Atlanta 12 after a 22-yard gain.
"That was a gotta-have-it situation," Dobbs said. "Whatever it takes to get the first down – whether it's throwing it short and a guy laying out, whether it's a contested catch down the field or using your feet to make something happen. That's what you have to do in those situations to keep the chains moving and give the team a chance to win."
"The way Josh [escaped] on some of those plays where guys are chasing him, and he keeps creating distance between himself and NFL players [was impressive]," Phillips said. "I don't know that I realized he was as athletic as he is. But we were glad to have him and needed some of that production."
With O'Connell still translating in his ear, Dobbs had the Vikings on the brink of an all-time win.
4:12 p.m. (ET) – Game winner
Dobbs' run and wherewithal to get out of bounds positioned Minnesota inside the red zone with 39 seconds left.
After an incomplete pass on first down, he connected with tight end T.J. Hockenson for 6 yards. Then, from the 6, Dobbs ripped the game-winning touchdown to receiver Brandon Powell on a play he'd watched Hall execute in a previous red-zone practice session.
"Just watching him take some of the things I said, then put it into action, that was probably the best part about it," O'Connell said. "There is a lot that goes into it, and quite frankly that is what made it such a special day for really Josh and our whole team."
"My job is to lead," O'Connell added. "In those moments, you've got to show up for the guys the way you ask them to show up."
O'Connell fist-pumped aggressively, then passionately spiked his headset. Powell spiked the football, celebrating his first touchdown since 2020 when he played for the Falcons.
"Being back home, being on this field, I grew up watching the Falcons play ball in the Mike Vick era and the Matt Ryan era," Dobbs said. "So to be here on this field and to have a game like that means a lot to me."
In one final drive, Dobbs emulated some of the best of both hometown QBs he grew up watching.
4:14 p.m. (ET) – The Hug
O'Connell gave Dobbs a big hug to celebrate the QB's first NFL game-winning drive.
"I just said that's why we brought you here," O'Connell said. " 'It's not just about what has happened to you in your career.' This guy has been in some tough circumstances, coming into situations just like today. I just told him, 'You're gonna be the best version of yourself because of these guys on the sideline and in the locker room with you. And I'm going to be with you every step of the way. And let's see what we can do with this thing.' "
4:17 p.m. (ET) – Game over … "Hi, I'm Josh."
As Josh Dobbs walked off the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, he recorded a social media video for Vikings fans.
"What's up SKOL nation. I want to introduce myself," he said. "I am Josh Dobbs. Great job today on Sunday here in Atlanta. Cheers to the next one. I'll see you guys back in Minnesota. Let's get it."
4:30 p.m. (ET) Postgame locker room
Dobbs played all but 11 offensive snaps for a Vikings team he joined five days prior.
He became the first player in NFL history to score three-plus touchdowns in back-to-back games for two different teams. He led the team in rushing. His 66 yards on the ground were the third-most by a Vikings QB since 2010. Dobbs had the highest Total QBR in Week 9, and his 86.6 mark is the 19th-best in any game for any quarterback this season.
It was a complete team effort. Every minor detail mattered as the Vikings committed just one accepted penalty for 4 yards and substituted quickly enough to buy extra seconds for O'Connell to maximize each pre-snap in Dobbs' ear.
"My job is to lead. In those moments, you've got to show up for the guys the way you ask them to show up," O'Connell said. "I hope people understand that what Josh Dobbs was able to accomplish was very, very special."
In the victory locker room, a sea of Vikings greeted Dobbs. Harrison Phillips lifted him in celebration, and O'Connell presented him the final game ball.
Moments later, Dobbs turned to his left for one last introduction.
"I'm Zygi Wilf," the Vikings Owner/Chairman said. "I'm so excited that we had you here today. [It's] a pleasure to have you. Great game [and] keep it up."
Dobbs, with his game-winning football tucked under his arm, smiled and responded:
"I'm honored to be here," Dobbs said. "I will. Without a doubt."
Before boarding the team bus for the airport, Dobbs met his parents in an area reserved for family members. The two familiar faces have never missed a game, even the ones he wasn't supposed to play in.
Dobbs handed his parents his game jersey, culminating a victory that was a lifetime in the making.
View photos in timeline order of Joshua Dobbs' first week with the Vikings after he was traded and helped lead the team to victory over the Falcons.
"That was such a cool moment, just taking in the moment with them, having them there to support me," Dobbs said. "I told a story when I was in Arizona – my parents went to every single game growing up. Games I wasn't going to play at, or didn't play at, or had no chance of playing at. Whether it was travel baseball growing up or Tennessee versus Oregon my freshman year – in Eugene, Oregon, I was redshirting, and my parents were there supporting. I have a really supportive family, so it was really cool to share that with them."