The 2021 Vikings are taking years off of their fans' lives.
For the fifth time in six games, the Vikings played a game that came down to the very final play. For the second straight week, they shook off an unbelievable collapse and won on a walkoff score. Kirk Cousins hit K.J. Osborn for a 27-yard touchdown midway through overtime in a 34-28 win over the Panthers that had a little bit of everything and caused heart rates across Minnesota to skyrocket once again.
They took a bizarre, highly difficult path to get there, but the Vikings are now 3-3 heading into their bye week after getting a pair of desperately-needed victories against Detroit and Carolina. Their close-game woes from a 1-3 start have turned around and they're still hanging around in the playoff picture, but the Vikings will need to be significantly better going forward against teams like the Cowboys, Ravens, Chargers, and Packers.
Just like last week, this game probably shouldn't have been as close as it was. Sam Darnold completed 17 of his 41 passes, Panthers receivers dropped everything in sight, and Carolina turned the ball over three times. Meanwhile, the Vikings put up 571 yards of offense, which is the third-highest yardage total in the history of their franchise. Kirk Cousins threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns, Dalvin Cook ran for 140 and a score, and four pass-catchers had over 70 yards through the air, highlighted by Adam Thielen's 126-yard day.
On paper, this game could've been a blowout.
But the Vikings made it more interesting than that, because of course they did. They committed 11 penalties, gave up a blocked punt touchdown, failed on two two-point conversions and two field goal attempts, and let an inferior opponent hang around by playing too conservatively late in the game.
After everything strange that had happened in this game, the Vikings were up 28-20 with less than four minutes to play and a chance to put the game away. They got to the Panthers' 35-yard line with a big gain by Tyler Conklin, only to run the ball on 3rd and 8, lose yardage, and punt it away.
Despite having struggled all day, the Panthers' offense found a way to drive 96 yards in 87 seconds, converting two must-have fourth downs and getting into the end zone on Darnold's lone touchdown pass of the day. They converted the two-point attempt, but left the Vikings with 40 seconds and change.
That's a lot of time for Cousins. He moved the ball quickly downfield, continuing an incredible season for him on potential game-winning drives. Cousins nearly set one up in OT in Week 1 before Cook fumbled, and did the same against the Cardinals a week later only for Greg Joseph to miss the field goal. He finally got one that counted against the Lions last week.
This time, Joseph let Cousins down again, going wide right from 47 yards out for his second miss of the day.
But Cousins wasn't fazed. The Vikings won the coin toss in OT and he did it again, this time connecting with Osborn for the game-winner.
The Vikings have a lot to work on over the next two weeks before taking on the Cowboys at home on Halloween night. Performances like this one and last week's aren't going to get it done against the good teams they face going forward.
But hey, a win is a win. And for the second straight week, the Vikings didn't let a major collapse stop them from getting the victory. They're back to .500 and everything they want to do this season is still in front of them, if they can figure out how to put it all together.
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