Upon Further Review: Cousins, Vikings overcome mistakes to beat Panthers

That’s just how the Minnesota Vikings drew it up, right?

Of course not. No team ever intends on committing three turnovers in a game, but the Vikings were able to overcome their errors by scoring 18 points in the fourth quarter, capped by a Kirk Cousins strike to Chad Beebe in the end zone with 46 seconds to go.

It also helped that Carolina Panthers kicker Joey Slye shanked a potential game-winning 54-yard field goal at the end of the game. About time an opponent screwed up an important field goal against the Vikings, though.

More Vikings coverage

Now it certainly did not help that Panthers rookie safety Jeremy Chinn returned two fumbles for touchdowns on consecutive plays or that Cook missed a good chunk of the second half with an injury or that Beebe muffed a punt late in the game … but it’s the NFL. It happens. In the end, Minnesota’s 28-27 victory counts the same as a blowout win.

Cousins played one of his best games in a purple uniform, completing 34 of 45 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 19 yards.

His Carolina counterpart Teddy Bridgewater was not quite as sharp. The former Vikings starter went 19 of 36 for 267 yards with one touchdown and an interception that was snagged by Eric Kendricks in the second quarter.

When dust settled, Minnesota left U.S. Bank Stadium with a 5-6 record and while the NFC North crown is almost certainly out of reach, the Vikings are well within the hunt for a wild card spot. The Arizona Cardinals (6-5) lost to the New England Patriots on Sunday and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 7-5 after a 27-24 defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs.

For most of the season, and for a significant portion of Sunday’s game, a Minnesota playoff berth sounded like a pipe dream. Well, it’s hardly a guarantee the Vikings will be in the postseason, but it’s more likely now than it was 58 hours ago.

 

PLAYER OF THE GAME

That game-winning drive from Cousins was just so smooth. Minnesota got the ball back at its own 25 yard-line with 1:51 left in the game, and Cousins marched the offense right down the field. He chopped up the Carolina defense, starting with a toss to Jefferson for 15 yards, then to Beebe for six yards, Kyle Rudolph for seven yards, Beebe for 12 yards, then to Rudolph for 25 yards. No. 8 finally threw his first incompletion of the series on 1st-and-goal. It was Beebe’s turn next, and you know the rest. Cousins’ late-game play has been a criticism from Vikings fans. For at least a week, Cousins shut those critics up.

 

DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME

Jefferson was fantastic once again. He seemed to always be open when Cousins went his direction, and for the most part he was. The rookie from LSU reeled in seven receptions for 70 yards and two touchdowns, including a critical score in the fourth quarter that showed off his magnificent route-running skills.

 

THAT MOMENT

The late touchdown to Beebe obviously had a huge impact on the game, but a crucial play that nearly gave the game away occurred on the previous series. Carolina had the ball on Minnesota’s three yard-line after Beebe’s muffed punt. On third-and-goal with 1:56 left on the clock, Bridgewater missed an open D.J. Moore in the end zone. Had that pass been completed, the Panthers would have gone up by two scores and the game would have been over. Instead, they settled for a short field goal and gave the Vikings life.

 

THIS NUMBER

2 — The amount of defensive touchdowns scored by Chinn against Minnesota. He became the first defensive player in Panthers franchise history to score twice in a single game. Chinn is also the first defender in the Super Bowl era with two fumble recovery touchdowns in the same game, since the last NFL player to accomplish that feat was Fred Evans of the 1948 Chicago Bears.

 

THEY SAID IT

“I’ve got to give credit to Kirk. He’s a true leader. He just exudes confidence, and we all felt that. When you have that feeling, you feel like you’ve always got a chance to win, and that’s what happened.” — Beebe on Cousins.

“May not have been the prettiest game, but ultimately, getting a win is what matters. It was great to get one after having some really close losses that were a play away earlier in the year. Really encouraged by us finding a way to win despite us having so many plays we want to have back.” — Cousins on getting the win.

“Throughout the game, there’s definitely going to be ups and downs. We have to continue to fight and continue to hone in our techniques and details of the way we play defense, and make sure that we do our part.” — Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson said on the defensive performance.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

Minnesota will stay home to host the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday at noon. The Jaguars hung tough in a 27-25 loss to the 8-3 Cleveland Browns in Week 12. Jacksonville had some impressive offensive performances, with backup quarterback Mike Glennon throwing for 235 yards and two touchdowns and running back James Robinson rushed for 128 yards and a score in the loss.