Mullens Has to Play Like a Veteran

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It shouldn’t have been unexpected when the Minnesota Vikings dropped a road game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday, but the way they got there left plenty to be desired. With a new quarterback under center, you may have been confused by Nick Mullens’ veteran status by watching him play.

Mullens Has to Play Like a Veteran

Last season, the Minnesota Vikings acquired Nick Mullens to provide a stable backup option behind starting quarterback Kirk Cousins. He had experience under center for the San Francisco 49ers and 17 career starts to his name. With only Sean Mannion in the fold otherwise, it was a straightforward way to raise the water level of expectations should Cousins go down.

Mullens Has to Play
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Now thrust into action as the fourth quarterback to start a game for Kevin O’Connell this season, the argument for his presence remains the same. Mullens is expected to take snaps and manage games as a veteran who looks competent on the field. After Josh Dobbs gave up the reins due to poor play, the greatest expectation for Mullens was not to lose games by his own doing.

On Saturday, he forgot that ask.

While Mullens put up a respectable stat line as a whole, his two mistakes sealed the Vikings’ fate. Sure, he went 26 of 33 with 303 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Yes, he got stopped twice on a pair of questionable sneak calls, but those weren’t as egregious as the interceptions he threw.

Looking to cap off a 14-play drive that chewed up over seven-and-a-half minutes of game clock and traveled 70 yards down the field, Mullens missed Justin Jefferson and turned it over with a pick in the red zone. There were just over four minutes left in the half, and Minnesota was looking at an opportunity to lead comfortably heading into halftime. A veteran quarterback has to do better in that spot.

One Controversy
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After the Vikings forced a punt from the Bengals, Mullens had an opportunity to wipe away his miscue but instead doubled down on the ineptitude. As he was being pulled to the ground for a sack, Mullens decided to uncork a pass just inches from the ground, and the result was something that should rival Mark Sanchez’s butt fumble.

Again, as a veteran, there should be zero excuse for attempting a throw as you are being yanked to the ground. The expected outcomes are virtually all bad, and putting your team in that spot makes no sense. It’s a scenario where you take the loss, protect the ball, and live to fight on another play. Mullens experienced the most hilarious and worst of the expected outcomes as his pass hit B.J. Hill in the head, only to fall right into his lap while parked on the ground.

Since O’Connell was forced to replace an injured Cousins, he has been handed a bunch of less-than-ideal options. Dobbs flashed for a while but then fell apart. Jaren Hall was thrust into action earlier than desired but then got hurt. Mullens is now running with his shot, but losing games because of bad decisions is not something the head coach can afford for a veteran to do.

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens (12) looks for a receiver at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn., Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023.

On Saturday, a pair of rookie mistakes sank Mullens and the Vikings. Minnesota isn’t going to make a change this week under center, and Justin Jefferson doesn’t want them to, but the backup from San Francisco better figure out where all the knowledge he gained by observing went — quickly.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.