A win is a win. The game was a lot closer than it maybe should have been, but the Minnesota Vikings walk away from their game against the New Orleans Saints with a win 27-19. The win pushes Minnesota’s win streak to five games, and gives them a win over a Saints team they’re competing for a playoff spot against.
The Vikings started the game firing on all cylinders. The rushing attack showed life for one of the first times this season with the addition of Ty Chandler to the mix. Josh Dobbs, with a full week of practice, looked comfortable in the offense.
He was throwing the ball all over the field and the connection with tight end T.J. Hockenson was particularly strong. Hockenson had 10 receptions in the first half, and the Vikings went into halftime with a three-touchdown lead.
As good as the Vikings looked in the first half, they looked about as bad in the second half. All of the good work they did in the first half was nearly completely wiped away in the second.
The Vikings defense allowed Jameis Winston — who came in after starting quarterback Derek Carr suffered a concussion — to come roaring back with two touchdowns and two two-point conversions. The offense got away from everything they were doing well in the first half, barely targeting Hockenson at all, and sputtering to a measly three points all half.
The only saving grace for the Vikings in the second half was Winston’s tendency to turn the ball over. Pressing to get the Saints all the way back, Winston made some mistakes and gave the Vikings defense two crucial turnovers towards the end of the fourth quarter to seal the game.
What should have been a blowout turned into a nail-biter at the end, but Minnesota ultimately moves to 6-4 on the season. It was an exciting — maybe a bit too exciting for some — with a lot of good, bad and ugly.
Good: RB Ty Chandler
For the first time in weeks — and maybe all season — the Vikings running game looked like it had life, at least in the first half. A lot of that came thanks to the new blood added to the lineup, Ty Chandler.
Chandler got a go at action this week after running back Cam Akers was lost for the season with an Achilles injury. Chandler certainly made the most of his opportunity, running the ball with an efficiency seldom seen from a Vikings running back this season.
Chandler had a handful of really nice runs in the first half that seemed to give the team a spark and spearhead the team’s dominant half as they went into halftime with a 24-3 advantage. Chandler, for his efforts, averaged just over 6 yards per carry and gave the Vikings their second rushing touchdown by a running back this season. He only got five carries in the first half, but he made the most of them.
The second half was a different story for Chandler — and the Vikings offense as a whole (we’ll talk more about that in a minute) — and he finished with a modest stat line of 15 carries for 45 yards and a touchdown.
The box score is a bit misleading here. Chandler looked more explosive and efficient than Mattison or Akers ever has this season. He looked like a back who should earn more touches as the weeks go on.
Minnesota simply cannot catch a break when it comes to the injury bug this season. Their team has been absolutely decimated by injury so far, losing their All-Pro wide receiver Justin Jefferson to an ankle injury, and starting quarterback and running back Kirk Cousins and Cam Akers to rupture Achilles tendons. That injury bug followed them into this game, as well.
The hits started early, as the Vikings lost their starting inside linebacker Jordan Hicks early in the game with a leg contusion after colliding with a teammate on a tackle. Hicks was able to return to the game briefly, but exited again a short time later and did not return.
The more concerning injury, however, came once again to a running back. Just a week after losing Akers for the year, the Vikings lost another running back in this game. Starting running back Alexander Mattison suffered a concussion in the third quarter. The injury left the Vikings with just Ty Chandler and special teamer Kene Nwangwu at the position.
If Mattison is unable to clear protocol and play next Sunday night against the Broncos, Minnesota is going to be very thin at the position. It’ll be interesting to see if the team makes a move to have another body just in case.
Good: Dobbs to Hockenson connection
The “Legend of the Passtronaut” just continues to grow. At this rate, we may start having discussions on whether or not Joshua Dobbs should be the starting quarterback for the Vikings in 2024 and beyond.
Okay, that may be a bit extreme, but what Dobbs has been able to do early in his Vikings career is nothing short of extraordinary. Last week he was able to come off the bench after only three days with the team and lead them to victory after Jaren Hall was knocked out of the game with a concussion.
This week, after only one full week of practice with the team, Dobbs came in and was carving up the Saints defense in the first half. Most of that carving went to tight end TJ Hockenson. It was clear very early on that Dobbs was comfortable with his new tight end, and that the two of them had been able to build a rapport during the week.
Dobbs went to Hockenson early and often in the first half, to the tune of 12 targets, 10 receptions, 128 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Hopefully for Hockenson and the Vikings it’s a sign of things to come.
If the team can get this kind of production from the two consistently, they have a real chance at making a playoff run — something that seemed unthinkable just a few short weeks ago.
Ugly: Second half offense
The Vikings offense was clicking in the first half. It was arguably running as well — or better — than it has all season. Dobbs looked comfortable and poised in the pocket. He had time to survey the field and find the open man. When the pocket began to collapse, Dobbs was either climbing up in the pocket to buy time, or he was escaping to make plays with his legs.
He was finding his new favorite target, Hockenson, over and over again, and when he couldn’t find Hockenson, Addison and Brandon Powell were there to pick up the slack. Even the running game looked arguably better than it has all season.
Everything was looking good in the first half, and the scoreboard reflected that. Minnesota was able to go into halftime with a three-touchdown lead over a dangerous Saints team who, up to this point, had been playing pretty good defense and had been keeping teams in check in the first half.
All of that came to a glaring halt in the second half. Whether it was the injuries catching up with the Vikings, head coach Kevin O’Connell getting conservative with the play calling, or the Saints defense figuring them out can be debated.
What can’t be debated is that the Vikings were starkly different in the second half. The team looked like they were stuck in the mud all half, barely making plays that they were making with ease in the first.
It was an ugly performance, and it nearly cost them the game and an end to their win streak. Ultimately, they were able to do just enough to come away with the win — thanks in large part to a couple of big plays from the defense — but they’re going to have to address this quickly if they want to keep this win streak alive next week.
The Real Forno Show