The Vikings will start Nick Mullens at quarterback on Saturday in Cincinnati, coach Kevin O'Connell said Tuesday.

It will be Mullens' first start since Dec. 20, 2021, when he completed 20 of 30 passes for 147 yards in the Browns' loss to the Raiders. The decision comes after Mullens replaced Joshua Dobbs in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game in Las Vegas and threw for 83 yards in the Vikings' 3-0 win over the Raiders.

"He really came into the game the other day and demonstrated his ability to prepare and be ready to come in and play in rhythm," O'Connell said. "He was accurate with the ball, made great decisions. I think as to where we are as an offense right now, it's about our execution with all 11 guys. Nick's comfort in our system will be a bonus for us."

Mullens will become the Vikings' fourth different starting quarterback this season, the first in team history the Vikings have used that many. The decision puts him in the spot he might have occupied in November, had he not been on injured reserve with a low back injury when Kirk Cousins tore his right Achilles tendon on Oct. 29.

Mullens had been the Vikings' No. 2 quarterback behind Cousins since the team acquired him in a trade with the Raiders in Aug. 2022. He went on injured reserve after the Chiefs game on Oct. 8, and had not yet been cleared to practice when Cousins was injured. The Vikings traded for Dobbs on Oct. 31; he'd led the team to wins in his first two games by the time Mullens was cleared to return to the active roster on Nov. 18.

"I think Nick's a great competitor," offensive coordinator Wes Phillips said. "There aren't many guys that were hurting as much [as he was] to not be out there when he was injured. So he's really hungry for this opportunity."

Even though Dobbs had turned the ball over six times in two losses before the Vikings' bye, O'Connell decided to stick with him against the Raiders after evaluating the team's QB options during the week off. "I told Josh I believe in him," he said Tuesday. "I think we can win football games with Josh playing quarterback, and he's proved that for us."

By the fourth quarter Sunday, though, Dobbs had completed only 10 of his 23 passes for 63 yards in a 0-0 game, and O'Connell had seen enough. Mullens completed nine of his 13 attempts, driving the Vikings into field goal range for Greg Joseph's game-winner and securing the starting job for the Bengals game.

"Getting to see Nick a little bit more last week and go out and execute our offense in rhythm, I think it was all a positive to see we could still find a way to win despite our struggles," O'Connell said.

The health of Mullens' back was not the main reason the team stuck with Dobbs for so long against the Raiders, O'Connell said, "but it definitely went into it." On Tuesday, he said Mullens "feels really good and feels ready to go, which was a huge part of this decision — making sure that Nick felt really good moving forward."

O'Connell said the Vikings are still determining whether Dobbs or Jaren Hall will be Mullens' backup on Saturday. The Vikings will have all three quarterbacks in uniform, designating either Dobbs or Hall as an emergency quarterback who would be inactive unless the two other QBs are injured.

Hall started the Vikings' first game after Cousins' injury, completing five of his six passes for 78 yards against the Falcons before he was hit on a scramble play and left the game with a concussion. He was the last player on the field after the Vikings' walk-through on Tuesday, working with assistant quarterbacks coach Grant Udinski after teammates had departed.

"He's come back and practiced really well," O'Connell said of Hall. "It's very important to me and our coaching staff, and really, our organization, that we keep pouring into Jaren, because we've got very strong feelings about the work he's done since he's gotten here. I know when called upon, Jaren will be ready."

Mullens will get the next chance to start, though, after becoming the first Vikings quarterback in years to replace a healthy starter during a game. The normally soft-spoken quarterback provided the boost the Vikings (7-6) needed to break a scoreless tie and beat the Raiders, guard Dalton Risner said. Mullens will try to continue it on Saturday against a Bengals team also fighting for playoff position.

"Our fans traveled very, very well [to Las Vegas], so it wasn't the loudest away game we've been at. But when he gets in that game, he is screaming the play calls," Risner said. "He was just amped up, ready to go. He just came in right away like he's been doing it all year. He easily could have came out with his head down, been melancholy, quiet. The moment could have been too big for him. But he came in, commanded that sucker and helped us win the football game."