MINNEAPOLIS — Playoff teams are known for their ability to overcome hurdles to win games. The Minnesota Vikings passed that test with flying colors against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Nov. 29.
The problem? The Vikings themselves were the hurdle.
Minnesota bareknuckled their way to a 28-27 win despite muffing a critical punt and allowing defensive touchdowns on back-to-back plays.
After taking a 10-7 lead into the locker room, Minnesota's opening drive of the second half ended when quarterback Kirk Cousins was strip sacked by Zach Kerr. Safety Jeremy Chinn gathered the ball and returned it for a touchdown to give Carolina the lead.
Not satisfied, Chinn pried the ball from Cook's hands on the next play from scrimmage, scooped up the loose ball and scored his second career touchdown.
Then, in the final quarter and trailing by three, Chad Beebe muffed a punt to set up first and goal for Carolina. The defense held the Panthers to a field goal, setting up a final push for Cousins and the offense.
"Of course, I think there's some things that we can clean up and work on, but I think we did a great job responding to adversity," Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson said.
After the goal-to-go defensive stand, Cousins marched the Vikings offense down the field. The seven-play drive was capped by a Cousins touchdown strike to Beebe with just 50 seconds remaining, offering redemption for the third-year receiver.
"He's a true leader, and just exudes confidence," Beebe said of Cousins' late-game heroics. "We all felt that. When you have that feeling, you always have a chance to win."
Cousins excelled despite playing without the NFL's leader in touchdown receptions, wideout Adam Thielen (COVID-19). The quarterback finished with 307 yards and three touchdowns while completing more than 75% of his attempts.
Little-used Bisi Johnson led Minnesota in receiving with 74 yards, while the rookie Justin Jefferson added 70 yards and two scores. Cook left the game after his fumble with a leg injury but later returned to finish with 61 yards rushing.
"It may not have been the prettiest game, but ultimately, getting a win is what matters," Cousins said. "A lot of guys showed up and made big plays."
The win helps Minnesota (5-6) remain in the messy NFC wild card hunt, although they remain a long shot to secure the seventh and final playoff spot.