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Nick Mullens' 2 TDs to Jordan Addison, Ty Chandler's Big Game Overshadowed in OT

Nick Mullens' first start with the Vikings — and first with any team in nearly two years — was highlighted by two touchdown passes to rookie Jordan Addison.

Both required Mullens to extend plays. He backpedaled and was going to the ground on the first but managed to lead Addison across the middle of the field, enabling him to make an impressive catch and then turn up the field in a hurry for a 37-yard score.

The second involved scrambling, reading and firing to Addison, who was just inside the tiger-striped end zone.

Neither were the prettiest sequences in the world, but the results certainly made up for it.

"I just kind of pictured it like a guy boxing somebody out in basketball," Mullens said of the first touchdown. "I pictured him on the block, boxing him out and asking for the ball inside. That's really in my mind how it was. He had an inside lane. I just tried to lead him a tick inside, and he made a great play."

Addison put on an impressive show Saturday all the way around, but it wasn't enough to lift Minnesota to victory. After leading by 14 as the third quarter ended, the Vikings couldn't stop the Bengals resurgence and fell 27-24 in overtime.

"Very unfortunate," Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said. "You come on the road and you battle a team that's playing really well right now. I felt like we let one slip away, but I think you've gotta credit the Bengals getting their offense going there in the second half, and we didn't capitalize on our last opportunity offensively there."

Chemistry was evident between Addison and Mullens, who became the fourth Vikings quarterback to start over the past seven games. It is the first time in 63 seasons the Vikings have started four quarterbacks.

Addison's first touchdown occurred early in the third quarter. When Mullens felt himself collapsing beneath the Bengals pressure on third-and-8, he managed to flip the ball to No. 3, who reached down and corralled the wobbling pass before taking it to the house for the 37-yard TD.

Prior to the scoring plays, Mullens completed a 19-yard pass to Addison with 9:06 left in first half, highlighting a possession that ran smoothly until Mullens was intercepted at the goal line by Cincinnati's Mike Hilton.

"I saw some space out front and I've just got to be careful. I've got to be disciplined, obviously knowing we have points on the board, so that's a mistake I'll regret," Mullens said. "You cannot turn the ball over in the red zone. The margin of error is so small. I'd love to avoid those plays. We've got to fix that."

He and Addison connected later that same quarter, this time for a 35-yard gain.

The series again unfortunately ended in another pick, however.

"As the pocket collapses there, he's trying to get that ball thrown away; that's just more repetition and understanding in that moment, we've got a great chance at 3, even if we do end up taking a sack," O'Connell said. "We still have a chance to put points on the board."

"We've just gotta finish better and take care of the ball in the red zone. I feel like that was the big thing," said Addison, who now has nine touchdowns on the season.

He finished his outing with six catches for 111 yards, his second game reaching the triple-digit benchmark. His first score marked Addison's fourth touchdown catch of 35-plus yards this season, trailing only Tyreek Hill (eight) in such plays.

"We just showed what we could do. Moved the ball down the field a lot," Addison said. "We showed what we could do, but we've just gotta be consistent doing it."

Minnesota's offense did move the chains well throughout the afternoon, totaling 424 net yards.

The unit was 5-for-12 (41.7 percent) on third-down attempts and didn't convert on a critical fourth-and-inches play in overtime.

O'Connell opted for Mullens to keep the ball for a sneak on third-and-1 and again on the next play. The Bengals defense stuffed Minnesota's offense at the line both times, however, turning the ball over on downs and then advancing for the walk-off field goal.

"Anytime you're inside of a couple feet, and then on the last one, really looking at about four or five inches there, you really don't want to have to turn around and extend the ball and hand off," O'Connell said. "I trust our guys in that moment to execute. I wanted to stay in 11 personnel to try to keep them out of goal-line defense or anything like that, and I thought we could execute with just some interior push right there."

Minnesota's loss put a damper on not only Addison's performance but also Ty Chandler's first career 100-yard rushing game.

Chandler started in place of Alexander Mattison, who suffered an ankle sprain last week at Las Vegas.

The Vikings balanced the run and the pass well, as Chandler racked up 23 carries for 132 rushing yards and a 1-yard touchdown. His outing was highlighted by runs of 24 and 30 yards, respectively, on the drives capped by Addison scores.

"It felt great, man. Big credit to the o-line. I couldn't have done it without them, changing the line of scrimmage," Chandler said. "They all did a great job. ... I'm really thankful for them. It's a blessing to be out there. Big shoutout to my running backs room, getting ready for this moment."

Mullens said "every game is its own entity" but noted the way a solid run performance opens things up offensively.

"When we can run the ball, stay on schedule like that first drive, we could be a very efficient offense," he said. "The running backs and O-line do a great job up front. Anytime you can run the ball, be complimentary, that's huge."

Mullens finished 26-of-33 passing for 303 yards, two touchdowns and the two picks. His passer rating was 99.9.

O'Connell overall was pleased with Mullens' performance but acknowledged the need to eliminate turnovers, especially in the red zone.

"I think the biggest thing is Nick showed he can execute our offense and, really, move the football team. I think what we've gotta continue to work through are those plays where we don't try to do too much," O'Connell said.

"We'll evaluate it, but he did a lot of good things today," O'Connell continued. "I liked the feel of both our run game and pass game, how it was kind of working together. But we'll take a look at it, watch the film and make a decision moving forward. But Nick Mullens played how I expected him to play. We will need to find a way to protect the football when it's in our hands, on all downs, and continue to strive for the execution of the other 10 guys around the quarterback. Which I thought, for the most part, was pretty solid today."

Behind Addison's 111 yards, Justin Jefferson returned to add seven catches for 84 yards. T.J. Hockenson had six receptions for 63 yards, and Chandler added three catches for 25.

"It's definitely tough," Jefferson said of the loss. "Especially when the defense gives us the ball in overtime, we have the opportunity to go down and score to put the game away, and we can't get a few inches to continue the drive. That's the tough part about it.

"But we had some good things we did in this game. Nick played outstanding the whole entire game," Jefferson added. "We've just gotta lean on that, think about the positives, go into tomorrow and the rest of the week fixing our mistakes and be ready for the divisional game next week."

The Vikings moved to 7-7 on the season and now face three straight NFC North battles to end the regular season, beginning with hosting the Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium next Sunday. Minnesota will look to build on successes in Cincinnati while work to fix mistakes ahead of the Week 16 contest.

"Our whole group was solid today. K.J. [Osborn], T.J., B.P. (Brandon Powell), Jordan Addison, obviously with huge plays," Mullens said. "The o-line battled up front and I felt great in the pocket, and the running backs carried the rock well. Collectively, I was pleased with our performance, but the margin of error is so small.

"That's why you work as hard as you can because you never know what play it's going to be that changes the game," Mullens added. "The margin of error is so small, but I love our group and we're not backing down."