Kirk Cousins got off to a slower start than usual in 2020, but he has been heating up as of late. The Vikings were down six points against the Panthers late in the fourth quarter and he marched the team right down the field to regain the lead.
Cousins completed 34 of his 45 pass attempts for 307 yards and three touchdowns on the day. His final drive of the day was topped off with a touchdown pass to Chad Beebe, who fumbled a punt return in the fourth quarter that could have cost the Vikings the game. It should also be noted that Cousins played with improved mobility in today's win, something he said he worked on this offseason.
On the final drive Cousins went six for seven for 75 yards and the touchdown pass to Beebe. There have been plenty of people talking about Cousins' inability to come back later in games, but the Vikings quarterback was able to get it done on Sunday.
The Vikings were without Adam Thielen and Irv Smith Jr., but several other Vikings stepped up big in the receiving game. Justin Jefferson looked like a legitimate wide receiver one, hauling in seven catches for 70 yards and two touchdowns. Kyle Rudolph, Bisi Johnson and Beebe all hauled in seven catches on the day as well.
Cousins’ day was impressive enough because he shut down another narrative that has been slapped to his name since arriving in Minnesota. His fourth quarter comeback was even more impressive given the fact that Dalvin Cook never really got going, he was without his go to red zone target in Thielen and they were missing their starting tight end in Smith Jr.
There will still be plenty of people saying that a quarterback making as much money as Cousins should always be able to drive down the field late in the fourth quarter, but that’s unrealistic. He was nearly perfect on the game-winning drive and the defense almost allowed a Carolina comeback that would have somehow been blamed on the team’s quarterback.
He certainly hasn’t been perfect during his time in Minnesota, but Cousins was the biggest bright spot in Sunday’s win over Carolina.
Despite a great performance from Cousins, the Vikings still managed to nearly give the game to the Panthers. Teddy Bridgewater made his return to Minnesota where he nearly completed a fourth quarter comeback of his own. After Cousins led the Vikings right down the field, Bridgewater got the Panthers into field goal range.
However, Joey Slye shanked his attempt at a game winning field goal, giving the Vikings a 28-27 victory.
This game doesn’t feel like a game where the Vikings should have come out victorious. They had back to back fumbles that were recovered by Jeremy Chinn for two consecutive touchdowns. The fact that the Vikings were still in the game after that point was impressive, but the offense was able to keep them in the game.
The Vikings got to 5-6 on the season and there are still plenty of areas for improvement on this roster. Special teams has been atrocious over the last month and the muffed punt return could have been the dagger to the Vikings season.
Late game defense should also be a focal point for the remainder of the season, but the unit is one of the youngest in the Mike Zimmer era. Some of the rookies have started to step up in their starting roles and the return of some key players should boost the defense in 2021.
The game could have gone in a very different direction, but the Vikings found a way to win and ultimately kept themselves in playoff contention for the time being.
Tune into KFAN 100.3 to get some more takes on the Vikings victory over the Panthers.