Josh Dobbs joined the offensive line for a brief meeting prior to making his debut as the backup quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. Normally, this conversation takes place on the first day of training camp, but his new teammates wanted to make sure he understood the five main cadences they have employed this season.
Dobbs, who was acquired from the Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday, did not play a single rep with the Vikings offense during the week of practice. He hadn’t snapped a pass from center Garrett Bradbury or thrown a practice pass to any of their receivers prior to Sunday. He later admitted that he didn’t even know most of their full names.
However, Dobbs was thrown into the mix when rookie starter Jaren Hall was hit by a concussion in the first quarter on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, leading to one of the most unusual stories of the NFL season. Dobbs guided the Vikings to a thrilling 31-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons following a sluggish start.
A 22-yard scramble to convert a fourth-and-seven led to an 11-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in his 6-yard touchdown pass to receiver Brandon Powell with 22 seconds remaining.
The fact that Dobbs was wearing a Vikings uniform on Sunday was evidence of the team’s increasingly strange season. With backup quarterback Nick Mullens sidelined due to a back injury, and quarterback Kirk Cousins suffering a torn right Achilles tendon last week, only quarterback Hall was healthy enough to play.
In an effort to help Hall get ready for his first NFL start last week, the Vikings gave him every practice rep. Dobbs was instructed by coach Kevin O’Connell to approach his own preparation as though the Vikings were playing on a Thursday night, when practices are shortened and much lighter and play installs are compressed.
Having spent the previous seven seasons as a traditional NFL journeyman, Dobbs had some experience with the kind of rapid turnarounds the Vikings were expecting of him. Eight days after signing with the Tennessee Titans in 2022, he made his first start. On August 24, he was acquired by the Cardinals from the Cleveland Browns, and on September 10, he made his debut in the regular season. But that was nothing in comparison to what transpired on Sunday.
Though he had never thrown the play that resulted in Powell’s winning catch, he had watched Hall practice it. In part, O’Connell changed the offense to a fast-paced, no-huddle approach so he could give Dobbs coaching cues through his headset before the NFL-mandated speaker cut off at 15 seconds remaining on the play clock.
O’Connell claimed that he was explaining to Dobbs “what I wanted him to do on his drop, what the concept was going to be, what was going to be on his left, what was going to be on his right [or] a last-minute reminder: ‘Don’t forget about your legs.'” He asked Bradbury to be his “my make-it-right guy” and to keep an eye on Dobbs’s protection calls.
Additionally, according to receiver Jordan Addison, skill players were in the huddle verifying to Dobbs their routes and positions on the field when he asked them.
Just prior to Powell’s throw, the Vikings had signaled for a timeout, which gave O’Connell time to set up a play that was specifically designed for that situation. Powell claims that the Vikings implemented the play after witnessing its effectiveness during the Detroit Lions’ Week 3 matchup with the Falcons. The Vikings knew their defense, Cover 4, would work when the Falcons started playing it.
Dobbs eventually finished 20 of 30 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns, but he lost two fumbles and was sacked for a safety.
Along with quarterback Kirk Cousins and wide receiver Justin Jefferson, the Vikings were also without receiver K.J. Osborn (concussion), left tackle Christian Darrisaw (groin), and running back Cam Akers (achilles). Nevertheless, he led the team with 66 rushing yards on seven scrambles.
Dobbs, who has played for the Steelers, Titans, and Cardinals, started games 1 through 9. (He has also played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Browns, and Lions.)
Hall started Sunday’s victory, so he won’t get credit for it in the record book, but he also won’t soon forget it. Last week, Dobbs made a comparison between it and “taking AP Spanish all year and now somebody tells you you’re going to take the AP French exam.”
Since Dobbs attended Alpharetta (Ga.) High School, it all took place in his hometown. A local reporter inquired about whether this increased the significance of what transpired. One issue existed.