CINCINNATI — You can talk about the "tush push."

You should be talking about those "sick picks.''

Two failed quarterback sneaks — tush pushes, in the modern NFL parlance — led directly to the Cincinnati Bengals' winning field goal in overtime to beat the Vikings 27-24 on Saturday at Paycor Stadium.

More important were three embarrassing passes thrown by quarterback-of-the-moment Nick Mullens.

On third-and-1 and then fourth-and-1 in overtime, Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell chose one of the smallest players on the roster, Brandon Powell, to do the pushing. The play failed twice.

But the Vikings would not even have been required to play an overtime if not for Mullens' rash passes and sick picks.

Turns out O'Connell should have had Powell smothering Mullens a few times earlier in the game, on pass plays.

Twice in the first half, Mullens threw unsightly interceptions with the Vikings in field-goal range. Had they produced six points on those drives, the Bengals may not have been able to catch up.

On the first interception, Mullens had Justin Jefferson open in the end zone and threw the ball inexplicably low and behind the star receiver.

For his second interception, Mullens decided to throw while horizontal and being sacked, and the ball went directly into the arms of a prone defender. It was the kind of play that gets you cut from your high school JV team. "That's a mistake I'll regret," Mullens said.

In the second half, Mullens threw a pass that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. The play was nullified by an offsides penalty but, like a gruesome scene in a good horror movie, can't be unseen.

Mullens, the Vikings' fourth starting quarterback of the season, passed for 303 yards and two touchdowns. If you consume NFL information only through box scores, that might sound impressive.

In the world of hard realities that determine the outcomes of NFL games, Mullens failed.

Even his two touchdown passes to Jordan Addison were more of a testament to Addison's talent than crisp passing. On the first, Addison scooped a low pass off the turf. On the second, Mullens, with the Vikings in field-goal range again, scrambled right, held the ball until two Bengals were within a step, then threw across his body into a crowded end zone. Addison bailed him out with another impressive catch.

The Vikings have three games remaining in their wild 2023 season. They probably need to win two to make the playoffs. They will require better quarterback play. They have already benched Joshua Dobbs. Their last alternative is rookie Jaren Hall.

O'Connell might as well embrace chaos and make the change.

All we know about Hall is that he handled himself well and did not turn the ball over in his brief stint in Atlanta. In the past three games, Dobbs and Mullens have lowered the bar enough for Hall to clear it.

"I thought Nick Mullens stepped in and led us to a very efficient day on offense," O'Connell said.

Mullens was supported by the Vikings' best rushing performance of the season, as rookie back Ty Chandler ran 23 times for 132 yards and a touchdown. Mullens also had the full use of the Vikings' excellent receivers, with Addison, Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson producing 258 yards.

There are too many Vikings playing well, and there is too much invested in this season to trust it to someone as reckless with the ball as Mullens.

O'Connell praised Mullens' production and ability to run the offense. He also said he'll reevaluate the position this week. The former sounded like diplomacy. The latter sounded like reality.

The Vikings are a pretty good team in search of a quarterback who won't ruin their efforts. Mullens didn't pass the test on Saturday.

Hall should get another chance, and if he does, he should request someone with a little more beef behind him on quarterback sneaks.

Maybe veteran fullback C.J. Ham. What could go wrong with a Ham Slam?