Wow. Just wow. Those were the only thoughts running through my mind as the Minnesota Vikings completed their miraculous comeback defeating the Carolina Panthers 28-27 thanks to a last-minute touchdown grab by Chad Beebe, redeeming his muffed punt just a minute prior.
Although everyone is excited about this comeback win, we should still remember why the Vikings were down in the first place and needed to mount a comeback.
The Panthers defense came out of the half with purpose. Defensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner Jeremy Chinn scored two touchdowns on back to back plays on the first two Vikings drives after the half, vaporizing the Vikings lead.
Kirk Cousins responded by playing his best when his team needed him the most. Unlike his letdown against Dallas, Cousins led a successful 2-minute offense 75 yards down the field with no timeouts.
Here are 5 stats that better tell the story of this back and forth game that ended with a close Vikings victory:
The Vikings defense had to bounce back from the atrocious performance last week against Dallas, and they did just that.
The defense had their back against the wall for a majority of the game. Whether it was sitting on the sideline watching the offense squander a three-point lead, turning it into an 11-point deficit, or when they were forced to defend a short field after Beebe muffed a punt late in the game.
The defense stood strong in the face of adversity, keeping Carolina out of the end zone in all three of their trips to the red zone, holding them to only one field goal. The other two ended with a field goal block from rookie D.J. Wonnum and an interception by Eric Kendricks.
It was the defense forcing the Panthers into errors in the red zone that kept Minnesota in the game. This, coupled with the Vikings going 3-4 with 25 points in the red zone, pushed them to victory.
Two quarterback rushing attempts by Cousins.
Although this stat might seem like just a minute detail in the game, I believe that this might be important in the future.
The running game was struggling to get going for the majority of the game. Cook finished the game with 18 rushes for 61 yards with an average of 3.4 yards per carry, and it’s not like he was doing great before getting nicked up either — he had 11 carries for 35 yards going into the half.
The quarterback twice extended drives with his feet, running nearly 10 yards for two first downs. These rushes proved to be important as the 9-yard scramble on 3rd and 8 extended a drive that resulted in a touchdown, and the 11-yard run on 1st and 10 led to a field goal at the end of the half.
One of the main criticisms of Cousins was that once the play breaks down, he isn’t able to play off-script. Now he’s scrambling for first downs, adding an extra dimension to the offense.
Everyone knows how crucial 10 seconds can be. After all, it was with 10 seconds left when the infamous Minneapolis Miracle occurred.
The Vikings came out of the half with a 10-7 lead after a 53-yard field goal by Dan Bailey, and they looked to “double-dip” and score points on the first possession after the half.
Things didn’t exactly go as planned on 3rd and 8. Cousins was wrapped up by Zach Kerr, who stripped the ball from his hands. An incoming Jeremy Chinn scooped the ball and ran it 17 yards into the end zone untouched.
Things quickly went from bad to worse. Dalvin Cook fumbled on the next snap while trying to move the pile forward. Chinn played hero again, punching the ball out and running it 28 yards back for another score.
In 10 seconds the game completely flipped from a 10-7 lead to a 21-10 deficit for the Vikings. These vital 10 seconds completely shifted the momentum of the game — the Panthers took a two-possession lead and Cook had to exit with an injury.
Too often this season, we have seen a bad stretch of two or three minutes shift the momentum of the game and lead to a Vikings loss. Think back to the Seattle Seahawks game where after they scored their first touchdown, Cousins threw an interception and the Seahawks scored on the very next play.
The Vikings are going to need to eliminate these momentum-shifting stretches of play if they are going to steal the 7-seed from the Arizona Cardinals.
You would think that after losing the game last week primarily due to the turnover battle that there would be an extra focus on ball security.
Scratch that: You would think, based on the way that the season has gone so far with the Vikings coming into Sunday with a minus-4 turnover differential, that the Vikings would try to avoid turnovers at all cost.
You would be wrong, however. The Vikings committed three turnovers on fumbles, finishing the day with a minus-2 turnover differential. Vikings fans won’t forget the muffed punt by Chad Beebe with 2 minutes and 10 seconds remaining that led to a Panthers field goal to make it a six point game.
It would be easy to overlook the mistakes made in this exciting win, but if the Vikings want to win more games, they cannot afford to lose the turnover battle and gift the opposition points on their own mistakes.
Two-time Pro Bowl wideout Adam Thielen was placed on the COVID reserve list and was unable to play Sunday. They also were without Irv Smith Jr., who re-injured his groin. Going into this game, the Vikings knew that they would need to find an adequate replacement for Thielen using a combination of Kyle Rudolph, Bisi Johnson and Beebe.
These three playmakers each hauled in 7 catches, combining for 21 receptions and 205 yards. Even more impressive? They caught 21 of the 22 throws targeted to them, and the only target that was not caught was a throw out of the back of the end zone intended for Rudolph.
Justin Jefferson was the focal point of the Panthers defense, allowing these three to work underneath and give Cousins easy completions.
With Thielen most likely returning next week, hopefully one of these three can take control of the 3rd pass catcher slot that has been left wide open this season.