EAGAN, Minn. — For the first time this season, the NFL's Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week will square off following their award-winning performances.
Vikings quarterback Joshua Dobbs earned his honor by leading Minnesota on a last-minute game-winning touchdown drive last week versus Atlanta. Saints cornerback Paulson Adebo forced three takeaways to help the Saints beat the Bears.
Dobbs and Adebo are set to share the field Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium when the Saints (5-4) visit the Vikings (5-4).
Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said Minnesota's fourth and final NFC South opponent of the 2023 regular season presents plenty of challenges on the defensive side of the ball.
"Whether it's the front, the linebackers, activity from the safeties, and then two essentially shutdown corners (Adebo and Marshon Lattimore) with a nickel in [Alontae] Taylor that comes in, it's physical, real sticky and coverage," O'Connell said. "They throw a lot of personnel groupings at you. You'll get five and six [defensive backs] on the field. It's not always a normal match kind of game, where you can anticipate what the looks are going to be. And then when the ball gets snapped, they play incredibly hard. They go at the football [and] the secondary has gotten their hands on a ton of footballs."
With two interceptions and a fumble recovery against Chicago, Adebo was the first Saints player since 2002 to generate three turnovers in a single game. His four interceptions are tied for second most in the league.
Along with Adebo, the Saints deploy defensive back Taylor in the slot and also feature three-time All-Pro Tyrann Mathieu at free safety.
O'Connell, who is preparing his third different starting quarterback in as many weeks, said Dobbs continues to progress with his knowledge and comfort within the Vikings offense.
"Josh [Dobbs] has continued growth. [We are] building off some of the things from last week. Maybe calls we didn't get to, that he liked in the plan and, learning more about really where that comes into play situationally [and] things he's comfortable with." O'Connell said. "My responsibility is to quiet his mind in any way I can. He's got a lot of confidence in where he's at with the practice week he's had."
Matchup to Watch: Saints receivers versus Vikings secondary
The Saints offense is rolling.
New Orleans and quarterback Derek Carr leads the NFL with 412.3 total yards per game since Week 6. The Saints 300 passing yards per game over that stretch is also a league high.
The Saints are averaging nearly 125 yards more per game than their 289.0 YPG average from Weeks 1 through 5. There are a few reasons for their increased production. Most notably, the Saints offensive line is playing better.
Throwing from a cleaner pocket allows Carr more time to hit deep throws to an ensemble of dangerous receivers. Chris Olave, Michael Thomas and second-year burner Rashid Shaheed are the only trio of NFL teammates to record 400 or more receiving yards this season.
Carr's 8.5 intended air yards per attempt ranks sixth in the NFL. He'll challenge a Vikings defense that has allowed just 17 points per game over the past four weeks.
But the Saints may turn to the air against a Vikings run defense that has been sound. Minnesota has allowed just one rushing play of 20-plus yards this season, tied for the fewest with Chicago and Houston.
"They've got a great group of receivers, running backs, too, as we know," cornerback Byron Murphy, Jr., said. "So this week, we've got the same mindset as to go make plays. For our room, they are going to give us some chances. We've got to make those plays that come down the field. We know they like to take shots."
Six Points: Memorable Week 10 Quotes
QB Joshua Dobbs on communication with Kirk Cousins:
"I have [talked with Kirk]. He's been in the complex starting his rehab. We actually share the same agent, so I was able to get connected with him pretty quickly once I got up here, and it's been great to have him as a resource. He's been awesome. The first thing he said was, 'If you need anything, want to know more about the offense, whatever you need – don't hesitate to call, text.' And he's been in our meetings. So just being able to bounce ideas off him, ask him how he sees different plays that we're installing, it's been awesome, and I'll continue to use him as a resource."
RB Alexander Mattison on team responding to multiple curve balls against Falcons:
"Our defense was playing lights out. That's one thing for sure to acknowledge, and we banded together. On offense we corrected what we needed to correct so we could go down and put points on the board. Greg [Joseph] was lights out, making all his field goals. It was one of those things where we played a full complementary game of football. There were things that didn't go our way, but we continued to bounce back as a team and play good in all three phases to come together and get the victory."
Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips on Dobbs absorbing information in short amount of time:
"Part of the factor is he's done this before, where he's come in and had to learn on the fly and kind of learn the game plan – maybe not A to Z, maybe just S to Z. He's kind of very calm throughout. There wasn't a feeling that it was overwhelming for him throughout the week. Even something as simple as quarterback-center exchange, you know, you're calling out plays and they're getting their exchanges, but they're going through their footwork on the run or the play-action pass or whatever it may be, and it just looked like he had been here. A lot of the terms he'd had somewhere in his career."
T David Quessenberry on Minnesota's locker room culture:
"It's a great culture we got here. I think yesterday was a testament to that. A rising tide lifts all ships. I think anybody coming into this locker room felt it. I felt it when I got here and I'm sure Josh would say the same thing. We've got a good culture and bunch of good guys, and everybody helps each other out."
Head Coach Kevin O'Connell on backfield rotation with Mattison after Cam Akers was placed on Injured Reserve:
"Hopefully we'll be able to get Ty [Chandler] more involved and kind of assume more of that role Cam was assuming, and really starting to thrive getting his touches in games. The physicality he was playing with – great block to spring Josh [Dobbs] on that play. We are going to feel not having Cam just overall – in our locker room and out there on Sundays. I am excited to see Ty. I think from the time he has gotten here, he continues to show a level of explosiveness, continuing to do some really good things with the ball in his hand, and kind of growing as a player right before our very eyes. So, I think he'll get some opportunities. Then, Kene [Nwangwu]. Kene gives us an experience guys with some juice and some explosiveness as well to kind of continue to have a committee approach to that backfield and ride the hot hand."
Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores on Harrison Phillips' impact:
"Harry Phillips is a guy that, guys like that, I call them 'dirty work guys.' They're not the flashy, sexy stat guys, but they're the guys who make it all go. We've got a number of guys like that. I think [Jonathan] Bullard's in that category, as well. Pat Jones [II]. And I could list off a couple other people, but those are the guys who come to mind first for me. Yeah, it's hard to quantify their contributions to the team, their ability to help other guys make plays. You need them on every team – on offense, defense and special teams. I'm very happy we have him. Over the course of the season, you grow closer to players. He's certainly one for me that I end up spending a lot of time with – and the same with 'Bull' and same with [Jordan] Hicks. Same with Harrison [Smith] and [Camryn] Bynum and [Josh] Metellus. You grow closer to them."
Danielle Hunter is tied for the NFL lead with 13 tackles for loss. One more on the season will give him 99 for his career and match his jersey number. Two more will hit the century mark. Hunter also enters Week 10 atop this season's sacks leaderboard with 10.
What an amazing game. … What I want to point out is every player who stepped onto the field. I have watched the game numerous times, including the all-22 view, and I cannot remember seeing a team, every player across the board, give more effort than I saw in this game. From amazing down-field blocks to 11 guys hustling to the ball on D. The goal-line stand by the whole defense is a great example. The D-line shift causes a false start to make first down from the 6.5. [Khyiris] Tonga's hustle was the reason [Jonnu] Smith did not score on the quick hitch. Hunter and [Josh] Metellus holding their ground on the jet sweep and [Ivan Pace, Jr.] and [Camryn] Bynum holding the pile and Tonga again hustling to make sure the pile moved back. Hunter blowing up the third-down attempt, but the entire defense was involved in that stop. Amazing. The downfield blocking by the WRs and RBs was done with great effort all day. What needs to be stated I think, is that it was not a great start when Dobbs first came in. The safety and fumble could have caused the whole team to shut down. The exact opposite happened, and I give huge credit to every player, and every coach in this win. Oh, and almost completely penalty free. I have watched the locker room speech many times now, and I get goosebumps every time. I also love that we have a coach that we can listen to on TV, and every third word, or a word in every sentence does not need to be bleeped out.
I am glad we got the W, but even if we had not, I could not be prouder to be a fan of our Vikings.
— Bruce in San Diego
Part of O'Connell's coaching philosophy hinges developing a "player-led" team, and I think overcoming in-game adversity is a huge reason why he believes so strongly in that. It's one thing to say that, but he consistently involves a wide group of players in leading this team.
The focus by the defense to execute so well, and the ability of the offense to execute so effectively while leaning on so many reserves, were incredible. I agree with Bruce on the depth to which each player did his job and made the team better.
The Vikings put themselves in a bind in their first three games of the season with so many turnovers and nearly pulled out wins in each of those games. It seems like while they were doing that climbing out, they filed away some things.
O'Connell smartly knows he can't do things for players on the field. Having players who understand this and drive each other through their shared accountability allows him to focus on the game operations.
Does this affect how the Vikings should treat [Kirk] Cousins?
— Jeff Donley
This one is a little open ended, so I hope I don't misinterpret. First and foremost, the Vikings are going to keep treating Cousins like the great teammate he is.
That will include supporting him during his recovery from the Achilles injury that abruptly ended what might have finished as his best pro season. Had he continued at the trajectory he was on, Cousins legitimately belonged in the conversation for NFL MVP.
While Dobbs' debut was incredible, and his ability to escape could add a really interesting dynamic and boost Minnesota's rushing totals, it's really early in his time here. It was a truly remarkable day, and it's so cool that it happened so close to his hometown. I fully expect he and the Vikings to build off that initial success, but there may be some hurdles ahead.
I also truly believe Jaren Hall was primed to have a great day against the Falcons, as well, and I think everyone can take some degree of encouragement to this coaching staff's accomplishments with multiple quarterbacks.
When is Marcus Davenport scheduled to return? We need him.
— Richard R. Theis, PhD in San Antonio, Texas
Davenport was placed on Injured Reserve on Oct. 18 after suffering an ankle injury at Chicago, so the earliest he'd be eligible to return would be next week.
The Vikings emphasize having players as close to 100 percent as possible, which we are likely to see with the timeline return for Justin Jefferson.
Davenport has had a couple other setbacks this season prior to the ankle injury, so I'm sure he wants to return to action when he can.
The hope for the Vikings is that this defense continues to improve together and then is able to inject Davenport's abilities into the mix when he's ready.
I do want to give a shoutout to how D.J. Wonnum has been playing in the starting role opposite Hunter, as well as Pat Jones II's efforts in the rotation. Wonnum and Jones seem to have taken steps forward.
It seems like the D on many critical moments have limited the opponent to FG or nothing when they are in the red zone. Last three games, the Vikings are the No. 4 team at 37.5 percent in allowing a TD when the opposition makes it into the red zone. Season ranking to date 19th. That is a huge improvement. Over the same period, the Saints are one of the worst at allowing over 66 percent. Sure hope the trend continues. GO D!!!!
Strong dislike for the NO franchise after Bountygate. Every Vikings victory over them is so sweet. [Minneapolis Miracle], Cousins to [Kyle] Rudolph in OT… Maybe a reason why? Time for another win.
— Noel in Bayfield, Wisconsin
Even though it's out of division, the Vikings-Saints rivalry brings a special jolt of intensity. The teams have met five times in the NFC Playoffs over the years, with Minnesota holding a 4-1 margin in those games, with the only loss occurring in the NFC Championship after the 2009 season.
The Vikings pulled the rug out from under the Saints with the Minneapolis Miracle in January 2018 and upset a 13-3 squad as a substantial underdog two years later.
As for the red zone trends, if those numbers hold at a similar rate, it could be a key factor in determining Sunday's outcome.
Tennessee LOVES JOSH DOBBS.
I and my daughter Crissy follow Josh — well, my whole family does.
Keep your head up and know we are cheering for you in Big Orange Country.
Go Vikings! Go VOL for Life!
You get this!
— Crissy and Donna West Emory in Knoxville, Tennessee
Another really cool aspect about last week is that because the Titans played on Thursday night football, the entire state of Tennessee had the Vikings-Falcons game available as that week's "local" area game on FOX.
I've heard from a couple of close friends back home who either love the Vols and Vikings (a self-described Volking) or love that a beloved "VFL" made the most of Sunday's opportunity.
Another said he needed to get a combo Vols/Vikings split jersey.
I think the more people learn about Dobbs, the more they are going to like. I'm sure Donna and Crissy will welcome Vikings fans into their Dobbs fan community.
With Akers out for the season who is most likely to back up Mattison?
— Don Landecker in Staples, Minnesota
Earlier in the week, O'Connell (one of the quotes above) mentioned more opportunities for Chandler and Nwangwu, who has dealt with a lower back injury at the start of the season, as well as an illness.