Vikings

5 Numbers That Tell the Story of the Vikings-Panthers Game

Photo Credit: Bob Donnan (USA TODAY Sports)

The Minnesota Vikings went to Charlotte with a chance to get back to .500 heading into their bye week. Before the players could think about what they would do with their week off, they had to beat a hungry Carolina Panthers team that had lost two straight.

The Vikings had an 11-point lead with just five minutes to go in the game. Although everyone expected the Vikings to close this game out against a Carolina offense that saw both Sam Darnold and his pass-catchers struggle, the Panthers were able to creep back into this game and force overtime.

The Panthers carried most of the momentum going into overtime, but the Vikings were able to win following a fortuitous coin toss and a walk-off touchdown pass to K.J. Osborn.

Here are five numbers that recap Minnesota’s win over the Panthers.

0

The Panthers didn’t have much success when targeting Bashaud Breeland. They never completed a pass to a player he was covering. Breeland was previously allowing a 147.2 passer rating. His frustration seemed to boil over after last weekend’s win against the Detroit Lions. Breeland put out his infamous vulgar tweet, which he promptly deleted.

Breeland had an incredible game in Carolina. Both NFL Next Gen Stats and PFF concurred that he didn’t allow a single completion in his coverage. Breeland set the tone early in this game, intercepting a Darnold pass on the first play from scrimmage that set the Vikings up in Panthers territory.

Although Breeland has been the target of much criticism, his impact on the field was a big reason for the Vikings’ win. If Breeland and Patrick Peterson continue their good form, we could see these corners cause trouble against the Dallas Cowboys after the bye.

8%

Minnesota’s offensive line only allowed pressure on 8% of Kirk Cousins’ dropbacks. The O-line has been one of this team’s glaring weaknesses over the last few seasons. Still, against a high-powered Carolina front seven that features Brian Burns and Hassan Reddick, they were able to give Cousins all the time in the world to sit back and work through his progressions.

Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill were incredible in pass protection, allowing pressure percentages of 2% or less through the entire game. Darrisaw looked impressive in his debut as a starter protecting Cousins’ blindside. If Darrisaw can solidify himself as a starting level left tackle, he and O’Neill could be anchors on the O-line for the next decade.

33%

Not to be outdone by their offensive counterparts, the Vikings’ defensive line could pressure Darnold on 33% of his dropbacks. They were able to move Darnold off his spot in the pocket and force rushed passes, making him less accurate.

While the usual suspects of Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter couldn’t record a sack, the interior defensive line put on a great display. Dalvin Tomlinson, James Lynch, and Armon Watts were all in on the action today. Watts, who has seen an increase of snaps due to Michael Pierce’s injury, was especially impressive. He posted a PFF grade of 93.0 and recorded three other pressures.

We all know how good Hunter and Griffen are, and after seeing how much this team has invested in the interior defensive line recently, it felt good to see them dominate.

4

The Vikings weren’t great in the ball-security department, putting the pigskin on the ground four times. Early in the game, it became evident that the team that made the fewest mistakes would be in the best position to win.

Though only Jefferson’s fumble on the second drive of the game was recovered by the Panthers, the Vikings need to avoid putting themselves in positions where they can give their opponents an advantage. Vikings fans held their breath when Cousins, Dede Westbrook, and Dalvin Cook lost the ball for a split second.

The Vikings might also have to look at other options for punt returner, as Westbrook had one fumble and bobbled another punt deep in his own half of the field.

30

Perhaps the most significant momentum shift of the game came on when fullback C.J. Ham scampered for 30 yards. To put the importance of the run into context, at this stage in the third quarter, the Vikings were down 17-12 after the Panthers scored on a blocked punt. The Vikings were facing a third-and-one, and the Panthers’ defense was selling out to stop Cook.

Instead of giving the ball to Cook, Cousins handed the ball off to Ham, who could evade multiple tacklers and get the ball to the Carolina 40. The Vikings’ offense came alive after this play was able to take an 11-point lead into the fourth quarter.

The play came at a crucial moment. Panthers fans and players were energized when Carolina returned a blocked punt for a score. The run by Ham took the air out of the Panthers’ defense and let the Vikings’ offense impose their will throughout the rest of the game.

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Photo Credit: Bob Donnan (USA TODAY Sports)

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