Looking Back at Week 6: Vikings edge out Carolina Panthers in 34-28 overtime stunner
On Sunday, Kirk Cousins was quick on the draw all day getting the ball out before the Panthers defense could mount their pressure attack. The tactic of putting a receiver or tight end in the path of the Panthers' most prolific pass rushers dampened their effectiveness and resulted in no sacks for Haason Reddick or Brian Burns. The speedy style culminated in 373 passing yards and three touchdowns against the league's top-ranked pass defense. That performance was capped with a 27-yard TD pass to K.J. Osborn during overtime. The score saved the Vikings 34-28 win over the Panthers after Greg Joseph missed a possible game winning field goal from 47 yards late in regulation.
The Panthers issues, however, started with the first play of the game when quarterback Sam Darnold, in an early effort to pull of a big opening play, had his pass intended for Robby Anderson intercepted by Bashaud Breeland. The offense would spend the rest of the half trying to get in sync with one another. "For myself, I gotta get the ball out," Darnold said.
"It's all about trust as a quarterback."
Despite pressure from the Vikings, Darnold did spread the ball around more than in previous games but came up mostly empty in the first half due to a plethora of dropped passes. Darnold finished the game 17-of-41 for 207 yards. Robby Anderson, who declined to talk with the media after the game, dropped several passes. The combined efforts of DJ Moore and Anderson failed to reel in as many as six passes. The Panthers offensive line, still searching for fluidity, left Darnold open to extensive harassment by the Vikings' pass rush which sacked Darnold four times.
The missteps by the offense took their toll on the defense. Vikings' running back Dalvin Cook returned from an ankle injury for his first game since Sept 17 and managed to be a large percentage of the Panthers' troubles scampering to 140 yards on the ground after a fourth quarter where he looked unstoppable. The Vikings' air attack was led by Adam Thielen who finished with 11 receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown. It was a costly day for the Panthers' defense as the Vikings finished the day with 571 yards of total offense.
Panthers linebacker Hasson Reddick remained confident the team could turn things around. "We got eleven more opportunities at the end of the day," Reddick said.
"The season isn't over, not even close."
The Panthers pushed further away from their training camp motto of "Don't beat ourselves" on Sunday with miscues primarily on the offensive side of the ball. Those moments showed the team has a lot of work to do regarding communication. At one point in the game Darnold called a second consecutive timeout that resulted in a delay of game penalty. Those miscues were not as costly on the stat sheet however. The Panthers only racked up six penalties for 28 yards in contrast to the Vikings' 11 penalties for 98 yards.
The Panthers special teams got a boost in the third quarter when Kenny Robinson scooped up the ball and scored from a Frankie Luvu block of the Vikings punt.
The team will start to put the pieces back together with thoughts of running the ball more often according to head coach Matt Rhule. "We have not been committed to running it and that's going to change." Rhule went on to define his goals with running the ball and said he would like to see about thirty-plus rushing attempts per game.
The bright spots - fans got to see Chuba Hubbard garner 61 yards on 16 attempts en route to score his first NFL touchdown as well as the grit this young team has started to develop. Still searching for an identity, they begin preparation on Monday for next week's matchup against the Giants.