1. O'Connell wins first down
Kevin O'Connell was ultra-aggressive on first down, calling 14 passes and five runs in the first half. It worked perfectly against a defense that struggled on first down against Bears undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent last week. Joshua Dobbs completed 10 of 12 first-down, first-half passes for 119 yards — 9.9 yards per attempt! — and a touchdown. T.J. Hockenson caught six of those balls for 75 yards and a 28-yard TD. Dobbs scrambled twice for 7 yards. "With KO, we aren't going to get too predictable and just always run it on first down," right tackle Brian O'Neill said. Ty Chandler had two of the runs for 13 and 11 yards.
2. Dobbs is blockers' best friend
Dobbs faced heavy pressure on three second-quarter third downs. He escaped each time, hitting Hockenson for first downs of 24 and 13 yards and then running for a 7-yard touchdown. "At one point, we noticed the Saints were showing two linebackers like rushers but having one guy just stand back and spy the whole time," O'Neill said. "I said, 'Josh, they're starting to spy.' He said, 'Yeah, I know. I'm not worried.' So we adjusted our blocking calls because we knew they'd be rushing only three." Said Brandon Powell, who caught a 14-yard pass with the Saints rushing three on third-and-10: "I don't blame them. Josh's feet are dangerous."
Sign up for our Vikings Update newsletter3. Run defense resurrected
The Saints had five three-and-outs in their first 10 possessions mainly because they rushed for a season-low 65 yards. The second half opened with a three-and-out when Harrison Phillips went low and Jordan Hicks high to stuff Jamaal Williams for no gain on third-and-1. "[Williams] hit my arm first, and I can guarantee you there will be a nasty bruise," Phillips said. "That's a hard play for me or Jordan to make alone. That was one of those hidden big plays." The Vikings have allowed 82 yards rushing per game in the eight weeks since the Eagles ran for 259. "Just learning the defense," Phillips said. "And trusting each other."
4. Hunter baffled by rare penalty
In 98 games since his rookie year, Danielle Hunter has been penalized six times for 27 yards — never more than once for 5 yards in a season. His first penalty of 2023 — illegal use of hands — came as his helmet was ripped off by tackle Andrus Peat. "My helmet came off, and I was like, 'Oh, I got the penalty,' " Hunter said. "Then I was like, 'Wait. That's on me?' I said to the ref, 'Bro, do you not see what he's doing? He took my helmet off.' He didn't know what to say." The penalty negated a third-down incompletion and helped the Saints make it a one-score game.
5. Winston being Winston
Jameis Winston came off the bench in his 90th NFL game. He played well until throwing career picks 98 and 99 on careless deep balls in the final four minutes. The second one came on first down from the Vikings 46 with 1:56 left and one timeout. Harrison Smith smiled when asked if he was surprised Winston chucked that ball up for grabs. "Were you?" he said. Winston claims he "took what the defense gave him." Not really. Asked how easy that pick was, Byron Murphy Jr. said, "That one was a little lob to me." Added Smith: "[Winston] is going to give his guys chances." And defenders, too? "Exactly," Smith said.