The Vikings won yet another close game Sunday afternoon, needing overtime to come away with a 34-28 win over the Carolina Panthers, balancing their record at 3-3 heading into their bye-week.
This game was a bit of the best of times, and the worst of times, to quote an oft-used phrase, as the Vikings defense rendered the Carolina offense ineffective much of the game, while the Vikings offense produced nearly 500 yards and 28 points prior to overtime- against a Carolina defense that had allowed an average of 255 yards per game so far this season. They were also the stingiest pass defense in the league through 5 games, but the Vikings and Kirk Cousins were able to break them:
Panthers' pass defense, weeks 1-5:— Krauser (@Krauserrific) October 17, 2021
161.6 yards per game allowed
7 TDs, 4 INTs
16 sacks for -115 yards
Opponent passer rating: 82.1
Vikings pass offense, today:
3 TDs, 0 INTs
Cousins' passer rating: 112.6
At the same time, the Vikings defense held the Panthers to just over 200 yards in total offense prior to their final 96-yard drive.
But it was also the worst of times, as the Vikings allowed the Panthers to convert a 4th and 10 from their own 4 yard line late in the 4th quarter, to keep their hopes alive, and then again later allowed them to convert a 4th and 6 to put them in position to tie the game- which they did.
The Vikings special teams also allowed Carolina to pick up some much needed points on a blocked punt, which they returned to a touchdown, and also missed what would have been a game winning field goal at the end of regulation time, and another one earlier in the 2nd half too. And there was also a fumble early on by Justin Jefferson, deep in their own territory, which the Panthers were able to quickly cash in on with a touchdown.
And yet it was also the best of times as the Vikings defense forced 3 turnovers, and Kirk Cousins led essentially two game winning drives- something becoming more common with him- ending the last one in overtime with a big-time touchdown throw to K.J. Osborn for the win.
It was a close game- closer than it should have been - but the Vikings were clearly the better team and ultimately they produced enough for that to be reflected in the final score.
Moving on to individual performances, and the stock market report...
Blue Chip Stocks
Kirk Cousins. Cousins stepped up when he needed to, and delivered especially late in the game, finishing 33/48 for 373 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, and a 112.6 passer rating. It was noteworthy also that on one of those late drives, he faced what might have been a strip sack in years past, but was able to take care of the ball and avoid the sack- and then run for 16 yards and a first down.
Christian Darrisaw. I’ll give him a blue-chip nod in his first official NFL start at left tackle. He didn’t give up a sack, but he did give up what might have been a strip late in the game- mentioned just above, but overall he looked good and could well be a solid fixture at left tackle for many years to come. He also had some good run blocks that I noticed too.
Patrick Peterson. He held DJ Moore to basically one significant reception all afternoon before leaving the game late with a leg cramp. This has become a fairly typical performance for Peterson since joining the Vikings.
Xavier Woods. Woods was pretty solid in coverage, had a forced fumble, and a key PBU late in the game. He was tagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty that was unfortunate. He hit the receiver to separate him from the ball, avoiding helmet-to-helmet, but still drew a flag. The way that penalty was called, the only thing he could’ve done to avoid the penalty was to not make the tackle and allow the catch to be made.
Armon Watts. Watts has been filling in well for Michael Pierce, and had a good game against Carolina, including a forced fumble. His preliminary PFF grade was an elite 93.
Vikings’ Offensive Line. Run blocking wasn’t fabulous, but allowing just 8 pressures on 48 pass attempts will do just fine, every week, please and thank you.
Bashaud Breeland. Breeland shouldn’t be embarrassed about his 89.9 preliminary PFF grade for this game, based on his first play interception, another PBU, and not allowing much all afternoon.
K.J. Osborn. Not a lot of targets, but he makes the most of the ones he gets, including getting into the end zone for the win. Klint Kubiak should draw up some plays with Osborn as the first read, especially when JJ is getting extra attention, and Thielen 2nd most. Could screw up some defensive game plans.
Dalvin Cook. Tough start for Cook, but he was able to break some big runs later, en route to 140 yards and a nice TD run on 29 carries- 4.5 per.
Adam Thielen. With JJ having a more difficult afternoon, Thielen was able to pick up the slack, leading all receivers with 11 receptions on 13 targets for 126 yards and a fantastic TD catch.
Oli Udoh. Udoh was flagged for 3 holding penalties and a false start. He’s a decent guard otherwise, but he’s got to clean up the penalties.
Stephen Weatherly. It looked like Weatherly blew his blocking assignment that allowed the blocked punt. Can’t allow guys to run right up the middle unblocked on any special teams play.
Greg Joseph. He had some tough (but makable) kick situations in his defense, but 3/5 isn’t a good day at the office for a field goal kicker.
Buy and Sell
Buy: The Vikings defense getting better every week.
Sell: The Vikings defense allowing a 4th and 10 conversion, and a 4th and 6th conversion, and a 2-point conversion, in a 96-yard drive to allow Carolina to tie the game.
Buy: Vikings ability to fight after things go wrong in the game.
Sell: Vikings ability to put games away.
Buy: Vikings offense nearly 200 yards on the ground at Carolina.
Sell: The number of run stuffs allowed by the Vikings offense.
Buy: Oli Udoh pass and run blocking.
Sell: Oli Udoh penalties.
The Vikings have their bye-week, and an opportunity to rest and heal, self-scout, and prepare for the toughest stretch in their schedule beginning with the Cowboys at home on Halloween night. Patrick Peterson left the game on a cart late at Carolina, reportedly a leg cramp that looked like a hamstring. Hopefully it is just a cramp and not something worse, and he’ll be 100% for the Cowboys in two weeks. I expect Michael Pierce may also be back after the bye-week.
The Vikings are going to need all hands on deck for the upcoming stretch against the Cowboys, at Baltimore, at the Chargers, and Green Bay at home. But they should be fairly healthy, and with the defense beginning to gel, and the offense being able to execute in crunch times, we could be in for, wait for it, more close games.