Vikings chase five-game streak, Saints thinking South supremacy

League: NFL

Posted on: 09 Nov, 2023 at 01:13 AM

Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Four wins in a row has the Minnesota Vikings thinking playoffs. Getting victory No. 5 last week restored division title focus for the New Orleans Saints.

The Vikings (5-4) are introducing a new quarterback to the home fans following an improbable comeback to victory last week.

Joshua Dobbs makes his first start for his new team as the Vikings host the Saints (5-4) on Sunday in a game that could have wild-card ramifications two months from now.

Dobbs was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week after passing for 158 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 66 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown, to lead a 31-28 victory at Atlanta.

"If you don't show up and play well this week," Dobbs said, "no one cares about last week."

But things are looking up for a team that began the season 1-4 and lost starting quarterback Kirk Cousins for the season because of an Achilles injury suffered only two weeks ago.

Minnesota initially turned to rookie Jaren Hall as Cousins' replacement and made a trade with Arizona to acquire Dobbs as insurance.

But Hall suffered a concussion in the first quarter last week and Dobbs was thrust into the game. Dobbs lost two fumbles and was sacked for a safety in his first four possessions, but settled in and threw a game-winning 6-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Powell with 22 seconds remaining.

"My challenge to (Dobbs) is to pick up where he left off Sunday and continue his growth and understanding of our offense," Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell said.

Things are looking up for the Saints lately.

After losing four of five to drop to 3-4, consecutive victories -- over Indianapolis on the road and against the Bears at home -- changed the energy in New Orleans. The Saints lead the NFC South over the Falcons (4-5) and Buccaneers (3-5).

"I've been in sports all my life," quarterback Derek Carr said. "Everyone talks about momentum and everyone can kind of feel it. ... If coaches knew how to bottle that up they'd have a secret formula."

Cornerback Paulson Adebo was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week after making two interceptions and forcing and recovering a fumble.

This will be the third consecutive game that New Orleans will face a quarterback who was not the opponent's original starter. Last week it faced Tyson Bagent, who was filling in for injured Justin Fields. Two weeks ago it faced Gardner Minshew, who was filling in for injured Anthony Richardson.

Bagent led the Bears with 70 rushing yards against the Saints. Two other opposing quarterbacks - Jacksonville's Trevor Lawrence (59 yards) and Green Bay's Jordan Love (39 yards and a touchdown) - were their teams' leading rusher in victories against New Orleans.

"You've got to have rush-lane integrity and not leave easy escape lanes," Saints coach Dennis Allen said. "We can do a better job against players that can hurt you with their legs."

Vikings star wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who has been on injured reserve because of a hamstring injury, returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday, but O'Connell said the prospect of him playing Sunday would be "a little aggressive."

Hall remains in concussion protocol so Dobbs' backup is most likely to be veteran Sean Mannion, who's currently on the practice roster. Hall, wide receiver K.J. Osborn (concussion) and defensive end Dean Lowry (groin) missed practice Wednesday.

Running back Kendre Miller (ankle) and defensive end Isaiah Foskey (quad) missed practice for the Saints.

--Field Level Media