5 backups that stood out in Sunday’s victory
Before Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears, the Minnesota Vikings were expected to pull their starters during the game and the Vikings did just that after halftime. Kirk Cousins hit wide receiver KJ Osborn for a 66-yard touchdown on the teams’ opening drive and then followed that up with a touchdown to wide receiver Adam Thielen.
After trailing 16-6 at the end of the first half, head coach Kevin O’Connell pulled his starters as the second half began. The decision allowed O’Connell to ensure his starters would stay healthy with the playoffs around the corner, but also allowed the Vikings coaching staff to look at the backups .
Here’s a look at some of the backups that played today and how they fared.
August 27, 2022; Denver, Colorado, United States; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens (12) during the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
The Vikings traded for quarterback Mullens at the end of the preseason to serve as Cousins’ primary backup this season. Fortunately, the only time Mullens has seen the field is garbage time and not because of Cousins’ injury.
He entered the second half Sunday against the Bears and threw for 116 yards and one interception while completing 84 percent of his passes (11 of 13). The performance was about what you’d expect from a backup quarterback in a meaningless game. Mullens proved he could come in a pinch and effectively run this offense.
October 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell (left) and wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) before the NFL International Series game against the New Orleans Saints at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Vikings’ rookie wide receiver has quietly put together two good games to end the Vikings’ season. Last week against the Green Bay Packers, he pulled in his first career shutout. On Sunday against the Bears, he caught four passes for 62 yards.
With players like Justin Jefferson, KJ Osborn and Adam Thielen ahead of you on the depth chart, it’s hard to get many opportunities. This season, Nailor has shown flashes when he has had opportunities. He’s still a young player and barring injury, he won’t be playing regular snaps on this Vikings offense. As he continues to develop, Nailor could find himself a weapon the Vikings use in 2023.
Patrick Jones II
October 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Patrick Jones II (91) during an NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports
The Vikings drafted Jones II in the third round of the 2021 NFL draft with the hopes of developing him. Through two seasons, Jones II has continued to show flashes. He is a player with good speed and explosiveness that can be a problem for teams, especially as a rotational player.
On Sunday’s game against the Bears, Jones II made his presence felt. He had four tackles and one sack. He has been a tight end on defense all season and has been a player the Vikings coaches know they can trust and he proved that again on Sunday. While Jones II won’t see an increase in playing time barring injury, his development is right on par with what you want to see from a second-year player. Jones II is another player to keep an eye on in 2023, after another season of training and his skill.
July 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, United States; Minnesota Vikings guard Chris Reed (62) drills during training camp at the TCO Performance Center. Mandatory credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
All eyes were on Reed this week after an underwhelming performance last week in Green Bay when he was thrust into the starting role after backup center Austin Schlottmann went down with a broken ankle. This week, the Vikings pressed Reed to speed up in case starting center Garrett Bradbury is ready for the Wild Card round. Left gear Christian Darrisaw is more confident in Reed moving forward.
“I felt like we had a dominant performance (Sunday). We came in today looking to build that chemistry, and I feel like we managed to do that.”
The extra practice seemed to pay off for the Vikings and the Reeds. There was a noticeable difference in offense with Reed under center this week and Cousins seemed more comfortable as well. The best situation for the Vikings was that there were no mistakes and that there was no Sunday against the Bears. This should give enough confidence to the coaching staff of the Vikings as they prepare for their playoff game against the Giants. Whether it’s Bradbury or Reed, the Vikings are in good hands.
January 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, United States; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Chicago Bears in the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
The Vikings had a bit of a scare in Sunday’s game against the Bears when starting running back Dalvin Cook left the game and was checked for an injury. Mattison came in and showed again that he is a capable running back and could get a chance to start elsewhere if given the chance.
Countless times this season when Mattison has taken the field for the Vikings, he has played with a level of energy that we haven’t seen from him in previous seasons. Mattison showed off his power and mobility against the Bears as he scampered for 54 yards on 11 carries with two touchdowns. Despite Cook’s status for the Vikings’ first playoff game, Mattison can step into the starting spot if needed and the offense won’t miss a beat.
Story first appeared on Vikings Wire