I’ve never worked in any field involving rocketry, thermodynamics, astronomy, or aerospace engineering. I’m sure this is a shocking revelation coming from a random sports writer.
But I’ve watched movies, so I feel I’ve got a pretty good handle on it. Sometimes, everything goes according to plan. Humanity laughs in the face of gods as they leave their terrestrial bounds and ascend through the sky to worlds unknown — kind of like the Minnesota Vikings’ offense against the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. And other times, it’s a little less than astounding…
Minnesota’s offensive performance against the Denver Broncos was deflating, to say the least. It sputtered, fumbled, and lacked the killer instinct to put the game away when it had the opportunity. The Vikings found lightning in a bottle with Joshua Dobbs in his first two outings in purple. However, the magic never manifested on Sunday night. Denver grounded The Passtronaut, leaving Vikings fans wondering when the team needed to give rookie Jaren Hall or longtime backup Nick Mullens another shot.
But we need to stop, breathe, and allow ourselves not to be prisoners of the moment. The clock in this Cinderella story doesn’t need to strike midnight just yet. The Vikings have a division game this weekend, and they’ll need some more Dobbs magic to make it happen if they’re going to win.
Make no mistake, the Chicago Bears aren’t very good. They’re 3-8 for a reason. They have one of the worst offenses in football and found ways to lose even when they had opportunities. Last week against the 8-2 Detroit Lions, Chicago found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, allowing Detroit to score 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to steal the victory.
While I could spend the next 500 words engaging in rivalry schadenfreude, there are real concerns to contend with against the Bears. Last week against the Lions, Justin Fields and Co. showed signs of life with a perfectly executed opening script on their first drive, and an opportunistic Chicago defense snagged three Jared Goff interceptions. The Bears should’ve beaten the alleged best team in the division, and now travel to Minnesota to see if they can put it all together.
That’s why Josh Dobbs and the Vikings offense must be ready for primetime.
Chicago’s defense is a middle-of-the-road bunch, ranking 15th in the NFL in yards per game. They’re significantly worse in points per game, coming in at 29th. However, a few catastrophic blowouts early in the season have inflated that number. The Bears are 16th in points per game over the past three weeks, which is more indicative of their recent play.
Here’s where it gets interesting. When you imagine a team that’s suffered as many lopsided losses as the Bears, you think of a defense getting run on in the second half of games as teams salt away leads. But the numbers tell a different story.
Chicago’s defense ranks second in the league in rushing defense. Their front has played pretty stoutly, and the addition of Montez Sweat has only bolstered their ranks. Contrast this with their 26th-ranked passing defense, and it seems like teams have opted to just throw and keep throwing rather than test the Bears on the ground.
Meanwhile, the Vikings have been legitimately bad in the run game. They’re the 28th-ranked rushing offense, and that only scratches the surface of their woes on terra firma. Minnesota’s fumbling, ramblin’ backfield has underperformed for most of the season. They’ve legitimately tanked the game for them in a few instances with poor play and turnovers.
If the Vikings are going to reignite their winning ways, it will likely be behind Dobbs’ arm and Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson using their playmaking ability to slip past Chicago’s sketchy secondary. Minnesota’s passing attack needs a rebound.
Addison is coming off of one of his least-productive games as a rookie last week. He had to contend with Patrick Surtain II, a physical corner. He’ll face Tyrique Stevenson this week, another physical corner. Stevenson may not be a Pro Bowler like Surtain, but it’ll be an important test for Addison to prove he can handle that level of physicality in press coverage. If he can battle through defenders at the line of scrimmage, though, Chicago’s safeties have shown the league that deep shots are open for business.
Dobbs will need his mobility to dodge Sweat and Co. Most importantly, he’ll need to keep his eyes downfield and throw with confidence when Chicago’s secondary provides an opening. The Bears’ defense is opportunistic by nature but will also provide the means to beat them.
The Vikings have their bye week after the Bears game, and Dobbs may be playing for his starting job. If the Vikings were going to consider pivoting to a new starting quarterback in Hall or Mullens, it would make sense to do so during the bye week with Justin Jefferson likely back in the mix and extra prep time. Dobbs has played well enough to deserve a bit of wiggle room, but a strong game on Monday night would be massive for the journeyman quarterback.
Minnesota cannot afford to drop a winnable game like this if they’re going to stay in the playoff hunt, and they won’t find too many matchups more favorable than catching the Bears at home. If Chicago’s defense can make the Vikings one-dimensional and take away the running game, they will do so with the hopes that Dobbs isn’t good enough to make them pay downfield. And whether or not Dobbs can do so could be the deciding factor.