The Minnesota Vikings lost to the Chicago Bears in an ugly 12-10 game in Week 12 on Monday Night Football to drop to 6-6 on the season. It was the first time in the NFL’s Super Bowl era a team won with no touchdowns and over 75 penalty yards, which is an embarrassing statistic. After a loss like this, there is plenty of blame to go around, and Vikings like quarterback Josh Dobbs, wide receiver Justin Jefferson, and even head coach Kevin O’Connell all get their share.
WR Justin Jefferson
Justin Jefferson is one of the biggest difference-makers in football, and he’s now been on the shelf for seven weeks with a hamstring injury. His not being there on Monday night was one of the big reasons the Vikings offense was so inept against the Bears.
The 2022 NFL Offensive Player of the Year is still just 24 and is dealing with the first major injury of his pro career. Minnesota came in with a winning record and should have had enough firepower to beat the lowly Bears, so with a bye in Week 14, sitting Jefferson one (and really two) more weeks makes sense.
That said, even having Jefferson in the field in a limited capacity would have helped quarterback Josh Dobbs and the offense tremendously. It would have created less coverage for rookie WR Jordan Addison and tight end TJ Hockenson, who both struggled in this game.
As frustrating as it is to not have Jefferson out there, it probably was the right decision to make sure he’s 100 percent healthy moving forward. Still, you can’t argue that his absence isn’t a big reason the Vikings lost.
QB Josh Dobbs
Maybe the Josh Dobbs fairy tale is coming to an end. The journeyman QB, who has been on five teams in four seasons, seemed like he was making the leap to legitimate NFL starting quarterback. However, after the Vikings Week 12 loss to the Bears, fans can now see some of the reasons the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns, and Arizona Cardinals all gave up on him.
Dobbs was 22-of-32 for just 185 yards on Monday night and threw four back-breaking interceptions. He did have a touchdown pass late to take the lead, but that wasn’t enough to make up for all the turnovers.
The Minnesota QB could have gotten more help from his play-caller (more on that below), but overall, he simply didn’t look like a playoff-caliber signal-caller.
Kirk Cousins is not coming back this season, and the team wouldn’t have traded for Dobbs if the organization thought that Nick Mullens or Jaren Hall could get the job done. So, Dobbs it is from here on out. What this game showed, though, is that Dobbs is going to need a lot more management from the sidelines than the coaching staff maybe thought after the last few weeks.
HC Kevin O’Connell
If a coach can’t scheme up a way to beat a team that has two turnovers, seven penalties, and no touchdowns, then he gets a big share of the blame for said loss.
That’s exactly what happened when Kevin O’Connell, the Vikings’ head coach and primary offensive play-caller, failed to create more than 10 points for his offense against the Bears in Week 12 on Monday Night Football.
As mentioned above, Josh Dobbs didn’t play well at all, and not having Justin Jefferson is a huge blow. That said, when a bad team repeatedly shoots itself in the foot throughout a game, an offensive guru has to figure out a way to take advantage of that.
With Dobbs throwing picks left and right, dropping back 32 times while only handing it off 17 times was O’Connell’s first mistake. Yes, the Bears run defense is good. The unit has allowed just 948 yards this season, the third-least in the league. However, the Vikings — specifically running back Alexander Mattison — did have success on the ground.
Mattison has his second-best game of the season on a yards-per-attempt basis, rushing for 52 yards on 10 carries, which is 5.2 yards per carry. Only his 5.6 yards per attempt in a Week 4 win over the Carolina Panthers was better, and he got 17 totes in that game.
Dobbs was under pressure all night as the Bears defensive line got two sacks and nine quarterback hits on the night. Because of this, the Vikings QB made some bad decisions throwing into traffic, which resulted in the four picks.
Leaning on the running game would have been the right call on Monday night, but unfortunately for Vikings fans, it wasn’t the one O’Connell made.