Vikings’ Kevin O’Connell Hints Final Decision at QB

Kevin O'Connell, Vikings

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.

Minnesota Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell‘s quarterback predicament seems settled despite a 27-24 overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

After a devastating loss where the Bengals scored 21 fourth-quarter points to force overtime on December 16, O’Connell tipped his cap to starter Nick Mullens, who recovered from a pair of first-half interceptions to throw for 303 yards and two touchdowns.

In his postgame news conference, O’Connell praised Mullens and was asked if it’s safe to assume Mullens will start in a pivotal Week 16 matchup with the Detroit Lions.

O’Connell reacted affirmatively before reeling himself in with a more measured response.

“Yeah I would—We’ll evaluate then, but he did a lot of good things today, ” O’Connell said. “I liked the feel of both our run game and pass game, and how (they were) working together.”

Aside from the two turnovers in the first half, Mullens was effective in moving Minnesota’s offense. The Vikings gained 424 yards of offense on Saturday, the most since Kirk Cousins threw for 358 yards in a Week 7 win over the San Francisco 49ers.

With Mullens under center, O’Connell planned a game that was more fitting to the offense that was built for Cousins in the offseason. That opened up the running game for second-year back Ty Chandler, who tallied 132 rushing yards and a touchdown in his first career start.

“I think the biggest thing is Nick showed that he can execute our offense and really move the football team,” O’Connell said. “I thought Nick Mullens played well enough to give us a chance to go to overtime on the road and win a game as a team. We just didn’t do enough in the end.”

Nick Mullens Must Play Safer to Give Vikings a Chance at Playoffs

Nick Mullens

GettyVikings quarterback Nick Mullens

Overall, Mullens put forth a respectable performance in Week 15, completing 26-of-33 pass attempts for two touchdowns, two interceptions and a 99.9 passer rating.

But beyond the box score was situational awareness that bit the Vikings in their loss to the Bengals.

Mullens threw a pair of interceptions inside the 25-yard line and had a pick-six called back due to an offsides penalty by the defense. Those turnovers stalled scoring drives during a first half that could have snowballed into a Vikings blowout.

But in true Minnesota fashion, Mullens allowed the Bengals to stay in the game with the costly turnovers.

“I just gotta be careful, I gotta be disciplined. Obviously knowing we have points on the board so that’s a mistake I’ll regret,” Mullens said after the game. “You just can’t turn the ball over in the red zone. You just can’t.”

Nick Mullens Does Not Fit Vikings, Kevin O’Connell’s Ideal QB

Nick Mullens, Minnesota Vikings

GettyNick Mullens #12 of the Minnesota Vikings.

It goes without saying that a career backup like Mullens is not an ideal fit to start long-term.

However, it will be intriguing to see how O’Connell, who urged Mullens to “not play hero ball” at halftime, keeps his quarterback from his true nature.

Mullens has been a gunslinger throughout his career for better and for worse. His 3.6% career interception rate would lead the NFL this season — and despite his best intentions of taking care of the football, the heat of the moment often brings out those lackadaisical tendencies.

For instance, Mullens’ second-quarter interception that he tossed into the lap of B.J. Hill while being drug to the ground was a poor decision that has been deemed one of the worst interceptions of all time.

Mullens response: “I was just trying to get rid of the football.”


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