Film study: What went wrong for Josh Dobbs vs. Chicago?
Was it the gameplan? Dobbs' decisions? His accuracy? His timing? Everything?
By Matthew Coller
When Josh Dobbs first joined the Minnesota Vikings and scrambled to victory against the Atlanta Falcons, it was clear that the Vikings weren’t going to be able to win that way sustainably. That played out with some ups and downs in the following two games but nothing quite prepared us for how badly the matchup against Chicago would go. Dobbs threw four INTs and the Vikings produced a meek 10 points in a loss that damaged their odds of making the playoffs. So what happened? Let’s have a look at the tape and see if we can figure out why Monday night’s game went sideways…
Our first play comes on the opening drive. After Jordan Addison was unable to bring in a deep shot (which still wasn’t clear on the All-22 if it should have been challenged or not), the Vikings ran unsuccessfully and then looked to get a big conversion to get the offense rolling following a long Bears drive. Instead Dobbs was sacked, killing the possession on the spot.
The Bears sent a stunt off the edge at the right guard and right tackle and quickly created pressure on Dobbs. As the quarterback looked around for an option underneath, there was nothing to be found. There was no escape hatch for a run so he had no other choice except to go down.
This might be an example of asking Dobbs to do too much. In his small sample size of NFL play, Dobbs has faced third-and-10 or longer 37 times and converted six first downs. Kirk Cousins, in comparison has 400 career plays on third-and-10 or more (and 89 first downs). Throughout the game it felt like the Vikings were giving Dobbs a gameplan suited for a veteran starting quarterback rather than someone who had only made 12 career starts and just arrived with the team a few weeks ago.
On the second drive of the game, Dobbs threw an interception. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson made a flat-out brilliant play. The Bears’ top corner read the route combination, faked as if he was playing man coverage and taking the underneath route and then sunk back underneath the corner route and picked the ball off.
Maybe you could argue that if Dobbs plays with a little more anticipation and gets the ball out a hair earlier that it gets there before the defender could reach it. Or that he could have seen Johnson dropping before letting the ball go and went somewhere different but in this case it looks more like really good football from the defensive back.
On the next drive, Dobbs gets intercepted again. This time he fires a rocket over the middle to Jordan Addison, who has the ball bounce off him and into the hands of the Bears’ safety. This play could fall into the “rhythm and timing” category or it could be a matter of Addison getting out of his break and getting his head around quicker. Neither angle of the play makes it exactly clear whether Dobbs needs to put less on the fastball or if Addison should bring this ball in. Maybe it’s both.
The call here is worth talking about. While the play design clearly got Addison wide open and it should have been a massive gain that put the Vikings in position to score, it was also third-and-4 and only TJ Hockenson was running underneath.
Not that Dobbs was perfect on quick throws either. His near pick-six to Johnson later in the quarter was unexplainable. That one doesn’t need a breakdown because it’s exactly what it looked like on TV. But another short pass is interesting to look at: Hockenson’s 6-yard gain on fourth-and-7.
If you are a John Madden fan, you are probably wondering why they would run a play short of the sticks on fourth down but the All-22 angle shows us that the ball needed to come out slightly earlier and Hockenson would have been headed across the first down marker rather than coming slightly back to the football. The throw is slightly behind him as well, slowing down his momentum and allowing the defender to bring him down.
This isn’t a complicated play but in a situation where Dobbs is already not the most accurate or precise QB on earth and only has a few weeks under his belt, is it asking too much of him to make a throw that Cousins would have hit with perfect timing after getting hundreds of reps with Hockenson on similar concepts? O’Connell has mentioned needing to be able to run the full offense in order to help the quarterback. But the offense is built for a top 10-15 quarterback. It’s a tough position to be in for the coaches and QB.
If you aren’t already feeling nausea from watching this back, the next clip might require a barf bag. Even including the interceptions it might be Dobbs’ worst play of the game. The Vikings were looking at first-and-10 at the Chicago 13-yard line with 38 seconds remaining in the half. As miserable as it was, a touchdown would have given them the lead going into halftime. Instead Dobbs tried too hard to make something happen and it went completely sideways. Rather than check down to either Alex Mattison or Brandon Powell when the pressure pushed Josh Oliver back into his lap, Dobbs attempted to scramble and then turned bad into worse by flinging the ball to nobody and getting called for intentional grounding.
The best playmaking quarterbacks still have issues with sacks and turnovers. A playmaking quarterback that isn’t in the echelon of Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray makes it even more difficult to swallow. The Bears clearly came with a rush plan to keep Dobbs from putting them on a highlight reel like he did against the Saints and Broncos and instead his attempts to make magic turned into miscues that killed drives.