The Vikings have enjoyed having him even more.
Dobbs kept an injury-thinned offense on track in his first start, throwing for a career-high 268 yards and contributing two touchdowns to help the Vikings build a 24-point halftime lead and hold on to beat the New Orleans Saints 27-19 on Sunday for their fifth straight victory.
“I did pinch myself,” Dobbs said, just 12 days after he was acquired in an emergency trade with Arizona and two days after he finally moved out of his hotel. “It’s just been really cool being able to take it all in.”
After an injury to Jaren Hall pressed Dobbs into action in Atlanta without any prior work with the first team offense, the former aerospace engineering major at Tennessee nicknamed “The Passtronaut” further impressed coach Kevin O'Connell and his staff with his preparation.
“He had a fantastic week of practice,” O'Connell said. “I’m having fun coaching him right now.”
T.J. Hockenson outgained the Saints by himself in the first half with 10 catches for 128 yards and a score for the Vikings (6-4), who stalled out after the hot start. Mekhi Blackmon and Byron Murphy had fourth-quarter interceptions of downfield heaves by Jameis Winston that ended consecutive Saints possessions, and Winston's last-chance throw into a crowd in the end zone on the final play was knocked safely to the turf.
“We let some get away from us there at the beginning of the second half we’d like to have back," safety Harrison Smith said, "but when the time came, we made the plays.”
After Derek Carr was forced out in the third quarter with a concussion and a shoulder injury, Winston entered with a 27-3 deficit and delivered touchdown passes to Chris Olave and A.T. Perry on highlight-reel, high-degree-of-difficulty catches in the end zone over Murphy. Alvin Kamara contributed the vital 2-point conversion runs.
The Saints (5-5) caught a break when Ty Chandler, whose first career touchdown run came in the first quarter for the Vikings, had a third-and-1 scamper for a 29-yard score called back for a questioned holding call on right tackle Brian O’Neill midway through the fourth quarter.
But the NFC South leaders have yet to beat a team with a winning record this season.
“We can’t keep digging ourselves into these holes,” coach Dennis Allen said.
With the adrenaline of the comeback victory over the Falcons worn off, the Vikings faced a significant challenge against a dangerous Saints secondary that entered the game leading the NFL in interceptions and passes defensed.
Superstar wide receiver Justin Jefferson (hamstring) was held out for the fifth straight game, and starting wide receiver K.J. Osborn (concussion) didn’t play. Hockenson played through a painful rib injury that was aggravated multiple times. Then starting running back Alexander Mattison (concussion) was forced out of the game in the third quarter. Dobbs was only here, after all, because of the season-ending torn Achilles tendon for Kirk Cousins.
But he went 23 for 34 without a turnover and rushed eight times for 44 yards, including a third-and-6 scramble that started with a 360-degree spin around the pocket to find a crease and ended with a 7-yard touchdown when he juked cornerback Alontae Taylor at the 5 and beelined inside the pylon.
“We’ve got to get him down,” Saints defensive tackle Malcolm Roach said. “We can’t ask these guys to cover for 30 seconds.”
DOBBS DOES IT AGAIN
Dobbs has three straight games with at least one passing and one rushing touchdown, including his last game with Arizona. The only players with longer streaks since the 1970 merger: Justin Fields (five, 2022), Kyler Murray (five, 2020) and Michael Vick (four, 2010).
“Sometimes it’s good coverage,” left tackle Christian Darrisaw said. “Josh just has the ability to use his legs, and I guess the defenders forget about it.”
TOUGH WEEKEND FOR THOMAS
Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, who was arrested Friday on simple battery and criminal mischief charges following an alleged confrontation with a construction worker near his home, had one catch for 9 yards before leaving in the first quarter with a knee injury.
Saints: CB Marshon Lattimore (ankle) was taken off on a cart in the fourth quarter.
Saints: Bye week, then at Atlanta on Nov. 26.
Vikings: At Denver next Sunday night.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL