Murphy: Dobbs, Vikings come crashing back to earth
Brian Murphy writes that the Vikings fun ride with Dobbs got a cold splash against the Bears
By Brian Murphy
Watching Vikings games through fanned fingers is a generational rite of passage for their jilted fans, but it’s hard to see anything when your eyes are bleeding.
If you trimmed the tree or sorted your sock drawer Monday night instead of watching Minnesota’s masochistic 12-10 loss to the Chicago Bears consider yourself blissfully ignorant but dutifully warned.
There will be nothing pleasant about the final five games of this fever-dream season. The Vikings may slither into the postseason but it will be on their bellies, over jagged glass, dragging all of us with them because we simply cannot look away.
The legend of Joshua Dobbs is pure myth after four games revealed the forsaken quarterback’s savior potential while exposing the fatal flaws that have kept him churning through rosters and dead contracts for seven years.
It’s one thing to walk out of a cornfield and into a desperate huddle with zero expectations and freelance your way to a pair of victories against ill-prepared opponents. It’s quite another to fully integrate with yet another offensive scheme while more educated defenses exploit vulnerabilities that were hiding in plain sight.
The putrid Bears looked like they had 15 defenders on the field every snap, overwhelming Minnesota’s offensive line and freezing Dobbs in their headlights to tar and feather him with four ghastly interceptions.
Nothing resembled an NFL game until the final six minutes when Dobbs hit T.J. Hockenson for the go-ahead touchdown before Justin Fields countered with a pivotal third-and-10 completion to D.J. Moore for 36 yards to set up Carlos Santos’ chip-shot winning field goal in the waning seconds.
The Vikings forced two Fields fumbles in the fourth quarter and performed yeoman’s work defensively yet again to cover for the multitude of offensive sins that drew a chorus of second-half boos from the persecuted crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium.
But defensive coordinator Brian Flores went soft on Chicago’s final drive after Ryan Wright, who had one job to do from near midfield – pin the Bears deep – shanked a 26-yard punt out of bounds to crack open the door for Fields.
Fields was a hot mess under duress, but Flores opted to dial back his pass rush and drop more defenders into zone coverage that proved leaky. On the fateful third down, Fields dropped back, stepped up and fired a rocket down the spacious middle to Moore.
Consecutive sloppy losses sank the Vikings to 6-6 entering their long-awaited bye. Two weeks to stew in the bilge well before heading to Las Vegas with time dwindling to secure a wild-card berth that somehow remains theirs for the taking.
Never mind all that happy talk about Dobbs seamlessly solving Minnesota’s short-, medium- and long-term quarterback problems. Let’s settle for some rhythm, some consistency and a halt to treating the football like a live grenade.
Coach Kevin O’Connell did a miraculous job triaging after Kirk Cousins was lost for the season with an Achilles tear, guiding Dobbs through the playbook thicket and positioning the former NASA scholar to engineer a nobody-from-nowhere story for the ages.
That may yet happen with Justin Jefferson poised to return after the bye, but let’s not kid ourselves. There’s only one Kurt Warner roaming this Earth and he had the coattails of the Greatest Show On Turf to ride.
Dobbs is no one’s franchise signal caller. Doesn’t look much like a bridge quarterback, either. Let’s see if he can truly play the long game in season and match wits against defensive coordinators who are salivating to replicate Chicago’s relentless attack.
Even after Dobbs threw a strike to Hockenson in the end zone, O’Connell showed little faith in his protégé after Josh Metellus forced another fumble as Fields scrambled for a first down that Anthony Barr recovered at the Chicago 43.
Two running plays netted all of 1 yard and a screen pass to Brandon Powell that lost another – indirect indignities for Dobbs, who finished 22 of 32 for 185 yards and a 54.3 quarterback rating.
O’Connell and Flores were caught coaching not to lose when the stakes were highest, battle scars that present learning opportunities for young leaders who are still working through insecurities that plague even the best football minds from time to time.
Watching that game was like preparing your tax return. Rote obligation. And we’re all going to owe.
Everyone needs a week off to process 12 games that have packed a decade’s worth of gloom (0-3/1-4), doom (losing Jefferson and Cousins), heightened expectations (Dobbs’ arrival) and humility (two straight regressive losses).
A week off to build that bankroll, take a pilgrimage to the desert and leave all that handwringing and permafrost behind.
Brian Murphy is a former Pioneer Press columnist and contributor to Purple Insider. Follow his work on Twitter at @murphmedia_