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Vikings Knock Off Panthers in Overtime

The Panthers fall to 3-3 on the season.

Charlotte, NC -  It was about the worst possible start for Sam Darnold and the Panthers' offense that you could dream of. Carolina received the opening kickoff and turned it over on the first offensive snap of the game. Darnold looked right to Robby Anderson, worked over to the left side of the field, came back right, and tried to force a long throw on the run to Anderson which was intercepted by Bashaud Breeland and returned to the Carolina 22. 

Minnesota moved the chains once but had to settle for a 25-yard field goal despite being set up shop with a short field. Greg Joseph's kick gave the Vikings the first points of the afternoon. 

Midway through the 1st quarter, Minnesota WR Justin Jefferson caught a screen pass for about five yards but cornerback A.J. Bouye caused the ball to pop out which was recovered by Haason Reddick down to the Minnesota 18. On the first play of the drive, rookie wide receiver Shi Smith registered the first catch of his NFL career on a touch pass from Darnold that went for a gain of 16, bringing the ball down to the two-yard line. Chuba Hubbard walked into the end zone untouched making it a 7-3 game.

The Vikings would then answer. Ameer Abdullah set up Kirk Cousins and the offense with terrific field position thanks to a 45-yard return. Justin Jefferson made a nice double move deep down the field and had his man beat but Cousins couldn't put it on him. Had the two connected, it would have gone for six. Minnesota worked their way into field goal range and once again, settled for three. 

Minnesota would regain the lead on their next series as Cousins started to heat up. He hit Adam Thielen for a gain of 20 over the middle of the field and then a pair of back-to-back quick screens to Jefferson and Thielen combined for 31 yards to drive the ball deep into Panthers' territory. Carolina was flagged for having too many men on the field which was then followed up with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Chris Herndon. Following the conclusion of the play, Panthers DT Derrick Brown was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Vikings took the yardage on the try but the two-point conversion failed thanks to a nice play in the open field by A.J. Bouye on Dalvin Cook around the edge.

With a little over four minutes to go, the Panthers cut the lead to 12-10 following a 47-yard field goal off the right foot of Zane Gonzalez. Carolina then had a chance to take the lead before the break with either a field goal or a touchdown but absolutely self-imploded. Sam Darnold called timeouts on back-to-back plays which is a five-yard penalty. Offensive lineman John Miller was flagged for holding, taking Carolina well out of field goal range.

That final drive perfectly described Sam Darnold's first half as he completed just five of 18n passes for 60 yards. Carolina trailed 12-10 at the half.

Carolina's offense continued to struggle early on in the third quarter despite the Vikings handing them a pair of first downs on 3rd & long thanks to defensive holding calls. Fortunately for the Panthers, the defense stepped up and made plays on the ball, Keith Taylor and Donte Jackson in particular. Frankie Luvu got everyone inside Bank of America Stadium to their feet by blocking Jordan Berry's punt. Kenny Robinson scooped it up and ran it in for the touchdown, giving Carolina a 17-12 lead.

Minnesota's offense went right back to work and answered. Fullback C.J Ham busted loose for a gain of 30 on 3rd & 1 to get the drive going. Kirk Cousins then hit tight end, Ty Conklin, for a 24-yard pickup. Running back Dalvin Cook capped the drive off with a 15-yard rushing touchdown. Minnesota's two-point attempt failed once again, leaving the score at 18-17.

To make matters worse, Sam Darnold finally hit a receiver in the chest but what do you know? DJ Moore fumbles the ball and Minnesota recovered. On the first play from scrimmage, Cousins hit Adam Thielen in stride for 35 yards in what appeared to be a busted coverage. Cousins went back to Thielen in the end zone a few plays later for a touchdown to extend the lead, 25-17.

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Minnesota extended the game to a two-score lead with another field goal from Greg Joseph. Down eleven, the Panthers desperately needed to do something on offense but once again, couldn't get out of their own way. Darnold put the ball on the turf and the Vikings recovered in plus territory. Fortunately for Darnold, the defense clamped down and forced a 50-yard field goal attempt which Joseph missed wide right. 

Carolina's offense took advantage (sort of) by getting the game back within one score. Darnold had one of the biggest plays of the day with a 30-yard scramble in the open field. He followed that up with a 21-yard strike to Brandon Zylstra but the Panthers had to eventually settle for a Zane Gonzalez field goal.

Cousins found Ty Conklin down the sideline for 40 but the Panthers' defense slammed the door shut and forced a punt. Berry's punt was downed inside the five-yard line making a long field for Carolina. 

With the game on the line, Sam Darnold threw a dime to tight end Ian Thomas deep for a gain of 41 on 4th & 10. Darnold then called his own number picking up a first down with his feet. Carolina faced yet another 4th down and once again, Darnold came away with a big throw dropping one in the bucket to DJ Moore down at the 7-yard line. On the next play, Darnold scrambled around and hit Robby Anderson in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Carolina tied the game up on a shovel pass to Tommy Tremble on the two-point conversion.

The Vikings drove the ball down the field all the way to the Carolina 29 with just six seconds remaining. Greg Joseph had a chance to hit walk-off field goals in back-to-back weeks for Minnesota but this time, he missed wide right from 47, sending the game to overtime. 

Minnesota had a handful of chunk plays to open up overtime including the game-winning 27-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to K.J. Osborn. The Panthers' offense did not get a chance with the ball since Minnesota scored on the opening drive.

The Panthers will hit the road for next week's contest with the New York Giants. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST.

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