Vikings Score 18 in Fourth Quarter, Beat Panthers 28-27
This was a game that neither team could afford to lose heading into the final stretch of the NFL season. Both teams will be fighting for one of the final Wild Card spots by the beginning of next year to solidify their chances of reaching the playoffs. Luckily for the Vikings, they will have the tiebreaker over the Panthers if it comes down to these final two teams.
It wasn’t pretty the first three quarters for the Vikings as they were outscored 21 to 10 and seemed to be heading into the loss column for the second straight week. However, the Vikings defense, which only gave up 15 of the Panthers 27 points, were able to lock down the clamps and only hold the Panthers to two field goals in the second half.
The Vikings started off the game on the right foot. After a Carolina punt, Kirk Cousins and the offense drove the ball 68 yards in over seven minutes to get them on the board. Cousins would go on to find Justin Jefferson for a 12-yard touchdown to get the scoring starting. After a punt by both teams, an Eric Kendricks interception, and then another punt by Minnesota, Carolina would get the ball on their own 19-yard line. Teddy Bridgewater, who was making his first start in Minneapolis since his days in Minnesota, led a methodical 11 play, 5:33 drive that was culminated by a Robby Anderson 41-yard touchdown catch. Dan Bailey would go on to drive a 53-yard field goal through the uprights to give the Vikings the lead heading into the second half.
The second half couldn’t have started any worse for Kirk Cousins. Two plays into the second half, Cousins went on to get sacked and then fumbled, which led to a scoop and score by Jeremy Chinn to give the Panthers the lead. On the very next play from scrimmage, Cousins would go on to be sacked again and fumble again, which led to another scoop and score by Chinn to extend the Panthers lead to 11. Jeremy Chinn went on to become the only player in NFL history to have consecutive fumble recoveries to go for touchdowns.
The Vikings would not be able to get back into the scoring column until the third play of the fourth quarter, when Dan Bailey drilled a chip shot field goal from 25 yards out. Joey Slye would go on to get those three points right back as he hit a 40-yard field goal to make it a two-possession game with a little over 11 minutes to go.
Kirk Cousins then led the Vikings 75 yards in 11 plays to make this a one possession game once again, finding Justin Jefferson in the back of the endzone for the second time this game. Jefferson, who is a favorite for Rookie of the Year, finished the game with seven receptions, for 70 yards and two scores. Bisi Johnson would go on and catch the two-point conversion to make it a three-point game with five and a half minutes left to play.
The Vikings defense stepped up on the next series and forced Carolina to put the ball with 2:18 remaining, which would give Kirk Cousins plenty enough time to drive down the field and kick a field goal to tie it up. However, on the Carolina punt, Chad Beebe fumbled the catch and it was recovered by Carolina inside the red zone. The Vikings defense stepped up once again and held Carolina to a 21-yard field goal with 1:51 remaining. With a six-point lead against a very sloppy team, the Panthers looked like they were going to steal a victory.
Kirk Cousins didn’t think that. Cousins, in one of the most impressive drives of his career, drove the ball 75 yards in just 1:05 and found Chad Beebe in the endzone, who was playing a large role due to the absence of Adam Theilen, for a 10-yard score. Cousins went on to go six for seven on that drive for 75 yards and a score.
Unfortunately, due to the quick score, Bridgewater and the Panthers were given 46 seconds to try and get the ball in field goal range to try and steal the victory once again. The first play from scrimmage was a 35-yard catch and run by Curtis Samuel to set up the Panthers at their own 48-yard line. After two more plays that advanced the ball 16 more yards, they went to their kicker to try and hit the game winning 54-yard field goal. With six seconds left, Joey Slye would shank the kick wide left and was no able to complete the Panthers comeback.
Cousins would kneel down on the very next play and walk away with the home victory to move to 5-6 on the year. With the win, the Vikings have now won four of their last five and are now in sole possession of second place in the NFC North, three games behind the Green Bay Packers.
Although the Vikings turned the ball over 3 times, all fumbles, and gave up 17 points on those turnovers, they were able to come away with the victory. Cousins finished with 307 passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Bisi Johnson, Justin Jefferson, Kyle Rudolph and Chad Beebe all finished with seven receptions and over 60 receiving yards each. The Vikings became only the second team in NFL history to accomplish that feat.
With the victory, they are now one game behind the Arizona Cardinals for the final wild card spot in the NFC. With the Vikings playing the 1-10 Jacksonville Jaguars next week and the Cardinals playing the 7-3 Los Angeles Rams next week, the Vikings could possibly be .500 for the first time all season and be tied with the Cardinals for the final wild card spot.