With two minutes left in the game, Sam Darnold and the Carolina Panthers went on an 11-play, 96-yard drive to tie up the game against the Minnesota Vikings and send the NFC matchup into overtime. In the end, Kirk Cousins and the Vikings prevailed after a walk-off touchdown gave the Vikings a 34-28 victory.
With this win, Minnesota rises to 3-3, while Carolina drops to 3-3. The Vikings will have a bye this upcoming week before they host the Dallas Cowboys. The Panthers will travel to the Big Apple to take on the New York Giants.
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Kirk Cousins did what he’s best at during today’s game — he managed the game and put the ball where it needed to be. In all, 49.9% of his 377 passing yards came after the catch.
Cousins went 32-for-49 through the air with three touchdowns on the way to a grade of 79.1 on PFF’s first review.
After carrying a questionable tag most of the week, running back Dalvin Cook proved that his supposed ankle injury was nothing to worry about. On the ground, Cook gained 147 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries — an average of 4.5 yards per carry. Cook forced four missed tackles, too.
Additionally, backup rusher Alexander Mattison carried the ball three times for 10 yards.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
It was a receiving party in Charlotte today — 11 different receivers caught a pass on the way to a big day through the air for the Vikings offense. With almost half of Cousins’ passing yardage coming after the catch, it was obvious that the Vikings’ receivers were running rampant against Carolina.
Minnesota’s Y.A.C. Party in Carolina
|Player||Completions||Targets||Yards||Yards After Catch (YAC)||Receiving Grade|
|Tyler Conklin (TE)||3||4||71||40||58.3|
Adam Thielen stole the show today, snagging 11 of his 12 targets for 126 yards and a touchdown. He accounted for 33.4% of Cousins’ passing yardage. Thielen also forced three missed tackles and averaged 2.42 yards per route run.
However, the game-winning touchdown reception came from K.J. Osborn on a 27-yard reception on which he barely touched the pylon for the walk-off score.
The Vikings’ line allowed just seven pressures the entire game. Three of the five starters — Christian Darrisaw, Brian O'Neill and Oli Udoh — earned a pass-blocking grade of 64.5 or higher.
The first two, joined by Ezra Cleveland, all tracked pressure percentages of less than 2.0%, as well. Cousins had all the time in the world to throw today, and it showed.
Sam Darnold has a history of seeing ghosts, and today was no different. As if he saw the spirits of the Vikings’ Purple People Eaters of old, Darnold faced pressure on a whopping 18 of his 54 dropbacks — 33% of the time.
LET'S GET IT @JamesHusker38!!!
????: @NFLonFOX pic.twitter.com/ihPDEczJzK
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) October 17, 2021
Most of the defensive line was able to get in on the sack party. Four of the five sacks came from one of the pass-rushers. James Lynch and Armon Watts found Darnold once each, while Dalvin Tomlinson found him twice.
Watts looked phenomenal today. He also recorded three pressures on the way to a defensive grade of 93.0.
To round out the sackfest, Anthony Barr took down Darnold for the team’s fifth. Eric Kendricks put together an equally impressive game with a hit and a pass-rushing grade of 75.9 on PFF’s first review.
When it came to coverage, Kendricks allowed three receptions for 52 yards and Darnold’s only touchdown, but he still recorded two defensive stops.
Four of the five primary members of the secondary graded in the mid-60s or above. Bashaud Breeland, the former Clemson Tiger, earned a grade of 89.9 on PFF’s first review, allowing zero yards and zero receptions on eight targets. He also intercepted Darnold’s pass and forced another incompletion.
The secondary looked great as a unit, with only one player allowing a completion percentage higher than 50.0%.
In a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Panthers’ quarterback Sam Darnold couldn’t decide whether he wanted to excel as his new, reformed Carolina self or revert back to his New York ways.
While he did impress by leading a game-tying drive and going 18-for-45 with 209 yards and a touchdown, Darnold still threw one interception, three total turnover-worthy plays and often looked like a deer in headlights.
This became even more obvious when Darnold halted his offense’s momentum by calling two consecutive timeouts — an illegal action — late in the first half. This resulted in an ugly delay of game penalty.
With star running back Christian McCaffrey still out due to injury, rookie Chuba Hubbard stepped in and helped propel Carolina’s rushing game. The Oklahoma State product rushed 16 times for 61 yards and even found the end zone for his first career touchdown.
While his rushing stats weren’t gaudy, they still earned him a rushing grade of 71.9 on PFF’s first review.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson may have atoned for their pass-dropping sins by assisting in the game-tying drive — with Moore catching a 26-yard pass to bring Carolina near the end zone and Anderson catching the eventual tying touchdown — but these mistakes should not go unnoticed.
In an extremely uncharacteristic game for both, Anderson dropped three of his 12 targets, and Moore dropped three of his 13 targets. Regardless, the former finished the day with 11 yards on three receptions and the latter finished with73 yards on five receptions.
These two pass-catchers were the only two with more than three targets and both graded below a 47.0. The other seven players who were targeted caught a total of 10 receptions for 125 yards.
While Darnold didn’t look great in his own right, it’s important to note that his offensive line’s performance certainly didn’t help.
Only two linemen graded above a 60.0 — Taylor Moton and Cam Erving. Still, Erving will likely want to forget this loss quickly. He graded negatively on 36.8% of his run-blocking snaps.
The unit allowed 14 pressures and five sacks. Additionally, three of the linemen allowed a pressure percentage of 5.0% or higher.
Of the five defensive linemen who played more than 20 pass-rushing snaps, three graded above 60.0. The best performer, Derrick Brown recorded two hurries and won 10.7% of his reps.
The rushing defense, on the other hand, looked much better. With Cook back in the lineup after rumors that he might not play, the Panthers stepped up and defended him well.
Frankie Luvu, who played 17 run-defense snaps, recorded two defensive stops and graded positively on 17.6% of his plays.
The duo of Haason Reddick and Brian Burns outperformed everyone, though, and had a combined nine tackles.
Julian Stanford and Jermaine Carter, the only linebackers who played today for the Panthers, were average. Stanford graded at 66.1, while Carter graded at 58.8. The unit mostly stayed back in pass coverage, which translated into one target for one reception and eight yards. Carter recorded three tackles, and Stanford had a 46.7% chance of success during his 15 coverage snaps.
Good gameplay deserves recognition, and that can be found in the Panthers’ secondary. Cousins looked good from a passing standpoint, but Carolina’s defensive backs were able to hold Minnesota’s receivers through most of the game. This fell apart, though, late in the second half, and the Vikings’ passing offense prevailed.
Keith Taylor and Jeremy Chinn were the stars of the Panthers’ defense today. Both played at least 40 coverage snaps and graded above 69.0 — 71.2 and 69.2, respectively. Chin allowed only one reception on two targets for only 24 yards.
While he graded well at 66.0, A.J. Bouye got torched all day long for 124 total yards, but he still managed to force an incompletion and record three stops.
THAT’S WHAT WE TALKIN BOUT!!!@frankluvu7@krob2__
????: FOX pic.twitter.com/eWYRqNd9E7
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) October 17, 2021
While the Panthers might have lost, lineman Luvu and safety Kenny Robinson Jr. made Panthers history. Luvu blocked a Minnesota punt in the second half, and Robinson picked it up and ran it into the end zone for the first blocked-punt touchdown for the Panthers since December 1998.