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Newcomer Josh Dobbs propels Vikings to exciting win over Falcons within days of joining team

ATLANTA — A few days ago, a man walked into the locker room at the Minnesota Vikings’ practice facility carrying a hanger with a red No. 15 jersey dangling off it like he just grabbed it from a discount rack at a local sporting goods store. Garrett Bradbury, the Vikings’ center, noticed this man and decided to introduce himself. He stood up and extended his hand.
“Garrett,” he said.
“Josh Dobbs,” the man replied.
“Welcome, man,” Bradbury said.
“Pumped to be here,” Dobbs responded.
There was a pause. Then Dobbs put two and two together: This was the Vikings’ center, a teammate of some significance for a quarterback just beginning to get his bearings in a new city, a new team, a new offense.
“I’ve actually got some cadence questions for you when you’ve got some time,” he said.
“Any time!” Bradbury said, while privately wondering how in the world Dobbs had already thought about cadences. “Just hit me up on it whenever.”
Neither man could know then what we know now. That a mere 78 hours after that introduction, Dobbs would have his hands between Bradbury’s legs while 71,000 enemy fans and 11 Atlanta Falcons defenders were breathing down their necks. Five days after he was acquired in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals, Dobbs would not only be running the Vikings offense, but he would also be improvising on the fly, making plays with his legs and commanding the unit as if he had been running it for years to spur Minnesota to an improbable and enthralling 31-28 victory Sunday over the Falcons. He finished with 158 yards through the air on 20-of-30 passing. He also ran for 66 yards on seven carries. At the time of that initial conversation, Dobbs was just trying to find his way around.
After meeting Bradbury, he meandered to his locker. Reporters crowded around him. Cameras zoomed in on his bewildered face. He talked about the trade. About how, in the 36-hour span that followed last weekend’s Cardinals loss, he had transitioned from starter to backup to learning the Vikings had added him in the aftermath of Kirk Cousins’ ruptured right Achilles tendon. The news stunned him. Really? After starting the first eight games of the season? After finally finding a place to live? He had to move again? Never give up. — Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) November 5, 2023.He had been living out of the same suitcase for the first six weeks of the 2023 season. This is what happens when the Cleveland Browns trade you late in training camp. Finally, his furniture arrived last week. To celebrate, his parents flew from their home in Alpharetta, Ga., to stay with him and watch him play. They enjoyed the weekend, Dobbs said, and even if he was unsatisfied with his play, they all appreciated the brief moment of stability.
In reality, the only thing stable in his young NFL career has been the color of the jersey he wears in practice. Quarterbacks almost always wear red, no matter if the game day version is Steeler black, Titan blue, Cardinal red or, now, Viking purple. The 28-year-old has appeared in games for four teams in 3 1/2 years and been rostered on three more, a dizzying ride that he likes to call “a beautiful journey.” Finishing the introductory interview Thursday, he scanned the Vikings’ locker room, looked to the left, then the right. He blinked hard. His eyes flickered with what appeared to be oncoming tears.
“This is going to be a tremendous story to tell,” he said.
The man stands at a lectern in the bowels of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Vikings have won. The locker room is vibrating. In an adjacent interview room, the man grabs the microphone with his right hand, looks up at the media members seated before him and says: “What’s up, y’all. I’m Josh Dobbs. Honored to be in Minnesota. (Wanted to) introduce myself.”
Mission accomplished.
Dobbs had just commandeered the Vikings on an 11-play, 75-yard game-winning drive with 2 minutes, 8 seconds remaining. The momentum built like a tidal wave, and Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah paced in the press box as he watched it all. Josh Dobbs and Kevin O’Connell embrace after the @Vikings go-ahead touchdown! — FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) November 5, 2023 Adofo-Mensah was antsy, nervous and unquestionably entertained amid an afternoon that had been gut-wrenching. The team’s starting quarterback, rookie Jaren Hall, exited with a concussion after a collision at the goal line on his second drive of the game. One of the team’s starting wide receivers, K.J. Osborn, was carted off after a vicious hit over the middle. Backup running back Cam Akers had been taken to the locker room with an Achilles injury. Superstar wide receiver Justin Jefferson watched from the sideline for the fourth straight game and ascending left tackle Christian Darrisaw was a late scratch with a groin injury. Thanks to a valiant effort by Brian Flores’ defensive unit, and a gutsy offensive effort, the Vikings had a chance that lay in the hands of the man Adofo-Mensah had just acquired. At the time of the deal, the Vikings were certain about one thing: Dobbs could learn an offense on a whim. Not memorize an offensive playbook or call sheet — but learn it. Dobbs’ college coach at Tennessee, Butch Jones, described this quality as Dobbs’ functional intelligence. “It’s not just book smart,” Jones said. “He’s able to apply what he learns and take it over on the field. The great thing is you only have to tell him one time.” By now, you probably know that Dobbs is legitimately a rocket scientist. His college coursework at Tennessee consisted of mastering engineering equations. That passion derives from a childhood fascination with space. The math background does not translate directly to football, but as Dobbs has said, there are more similarities between quarterbacks and engineers than you might think. “Defenses are giving me different problems, where you’re taking the assessment of data from film, and you have to assess those problems and solve them quickly to put your team in efficient situations,” he said in a video detailing an externship he had with NASA. Yes, you read that right. Having Dobbs do so Sunday was never the Vikings’ plan, but then again, Dobbs’ path has rarely gone to plan. If he looked comfortable in the heat of crunchtime Sunday against the Falcons, it is only because he knows what it feels like to be thrown into the fire. The first time Dobbs took the field in college at the University of Tennessee came as a true freshman. Against Alabama. At Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. Tennessee starter Justin Worley exited with an injury, and Dobbs came in and led the Volunteers on their only two scoring drives of the game in a 45-10 loss. Dobbs was still backing up Worley in the first seven games of his second season. When Worley suffered an injury, Jones gave Dobbs his first start of the season against a familiar foe: Alabama. “We asked him to be able to have run-pass checks, run-run checks, run RPOs, designed quarterback runs, nakeds,” Jones said Sunday. “Everything you could ask of a quarterback, we asked of him. He didn’t blink. He was very poised. He executed it.” The Vikings hoped these characteristics would show up for Hall, which is why they constructed their entire week of prep around the rookie. Hall participated in all of the first-team reps in practice. He met frequently with quarterbacks coach Chris O’Hara. Minnesota believed he could manage the operation, and Hall was off to a promising start before his head bounced off the turf on a tackle by Falcons cornerback Jeff Okudah on the second drive of the game. Dobbs observed the hit and initially worried for his new teammate. Realizing the severity, he stood and began to throw. He circled up with the Vikings offensive linemen to go over their five most oft-used cadences. He practiced snaps with Bradbury for the first time. He reviewed some of the Vikings’ priority play calls with O’Hara. Time blurred, and before he knew it, he was on the field, shrugging off tacklers, escaping pockets and listening to Kevin O’Connell map out plays in his ear. Through the crackling microphones, O’Connell described how Dobbs needed to drop back, where the primary reads were going to be, which routes would be happening on the left and which routes receivers would be…


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