The offense had to get past concussions from fill-in starting rookie quarterback Jaren Hall and wide receiver K.J. Osborn. Not to mention a season-ending Achilles injury from running back Cam Akers. Josh Dobbs and Brandon Powell stepped up in a big way to help the Vikings get the win.
Minnesota fought hard in Mercedez-Benz Stadium to compete with the NFC South division front-runners and ended up finishing the job.
The Vikings continue their post-Kirk Cousins playoff run and some stocks certainly rose, while others took a hit as Minnesota stares down the second half of their season.
Stock up: QB Joshua Dobbs
The fanfare for Joshua Dobbs is so well-deserved that I don’t think there is a way that it could be deemed excessive.
Minnesota is his fifth team in a calendar year, his second in under a week. He was given five days to learn a new playbook, a new offense and a new philosophy before being brought in as a backup option for the fifth-round rookie in Hall.
Then, when Hall went down, he was thrust into action, having to learn the nuances of the position as it pertains to the Vikings minutes before taking the field.
Dobbs then goes on to go 20-for-30 for 158 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner to Brandon Powell in the closing seconds. He also led the team in rushing yards with 66 yards on seven carries and another touchdown.
What Dobbs did today should go down in history as one of the more improbable feats in NFL history.
Stock down: Rushing defense
The way to beat the Atlanta is to stifle their run defense and force their quarterbacks to beat you through the air. The Vikings did that for the most part, but as the game droned on, the dam broke and the Falcons started to run at will against this Vikings front.
It’s what eventually allowed them a chance to win later in the ball game.
The Falcons ended the day with 110 yards on 28 carries, good for 3.9 yards per carry.
Atlanta’s leading rusher was Bijan Robinson and his 51 carries on 11 attempts, but it was clear that the Falcons got into their groove late in this game.
For the first eight weeks, the Vikings’ run defense has been stout for the entirety of the game. While nitpicky, if this team wants a chance to get into the playoffs, they have to be playing at the top of their game every week. That includes not letting up crucial runs near the goal line at the end of games.
Stock up: TE T.J. Hockenson
There is not enough that can be said about tight end T.J. Hockenson’s performance today.
A consistent safety blanket for Dobbs, Hockenson caused havoc against an Atlanta defense that did not have an answer for his combination of size and agility.
He ended the day with seven receptions on 12 targets for 69 yards. With linebacker Troy Andersen out for the season, there was nobody who could stick with Hockenson in one-on-one situations.
Hockenson will need to continue to be a reliable target for Dobbs as better defenses present themselves across this crucial second half of the season.
Stock down: Slow starts
This team still has yet to have an opening drive score on the season.
The slow starts with Hall and Dobbs are understandable. Hall was a rookie making his first start and Dobbs had only been here for five days.
But, it is something that cannot continue.
One of the best feelings for a defense is to go out into the game and know that they can play free because their offense is in a rhythm early. Minnesota’s defense has not had that feeling as of yet, whether that’s due to turnovers, penalties, or a drive simply stalling.
Being able to start fast and get into a rhythm quickly will go a long way to this team competing as the pressure mounts onto this season.
Stock down: Injuries
Today’s game took its pound of flesh in exchange for the eventual victory.
Both Jaren Hall and K.J. Osborn left with concussions. Osborn’s came after a nasty collision with two Falcons players that left him debilitated for a while.
Cam Akers’ season may be done as his injury was to the dreaded Achilles that took Kirk Cousins out for the season.
Add these to the loss of Christian Darrisaw and Justin Jefferson and this team is starting to catch a serious injury bug at an inopportune time.
Hopefully, Jefferson can return sooner rather than later, but rushing back your most valuable player for the sake of salvaging what they can from this season is not good practice.
Stock up: Kevin O'Connell
On the other side of Dobbs’ performance is the adaptability and wherewithal of the head coach and play-caller Kevin O’Connell.
This offense put up 31 points and over 360 yards of offense with a fifth-round rookie and a savvy veteran with only one practice under his belt.
There never seemed to be a point where the Vikings phoned it in, regardless of what was happening on the field. And that goes back to faith in the coaching staff.
This Minnesota team never thinks they’re out of the game and that has shown itself time and time again. From the litany of fourth-quarter comebacks, including the largest ever in NFL history, to their ability in one-score games dating back to last season.
This Vikings team thinks they can win every game that they play, and that is indicative of the winning culture that O’Connell has instilled in the building.
The Real Forno Show