This game seemed over about a minute into the second half when Jeremy Chinn scored his second defensive touchdown in 10 seconds of game time. It seemed over again when Chad Beebe muffed a punt with about two minutes left. And finally, it seemed over when Joey Slye lined up to kick a potentially game-winning 54-yard field goal.
But still, the Vikings came out victorious over Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers on Sunday. It was a weird game to say the least; here are a few stats to break down just how weird it was.
The Vikings have been the best offense in the red zone this season, scoring touchdowns on 75% of their red zone drives coming into Sunday. This success has come mostly from the run game. They run the ball on 67% of their red zone plays, which also leads the NFL.
However, Sunday was a complete flip of the script. They scored on all four red zone drives once again, but instead of running the ball, they did the majority of their damage through the air. Eight of their 12 plays were pass plays, including three touchdown passes.
Outside of his fumble, Kirk Cousins stood up to tremendous pressure from the Carolina defense. This is very surprising because Carolina ranks in the bottom half of the league in blitzes and knockdowns. This week though, the Panthers hit Kirk Cousins nine times on his dropbacks.
All season long, the Vikings mantra has been to establish the run. Feed Dalvin Cook, and usually, good things happen. Following the trend of strange happenings, that was not Minnesota’s strategy at all this week.
Of their 26 first down plays, 18 of them were pass plays. It worked well, especially on the last touchdown drive. During that drive, Cousins went 5-for-6 and 57 yards on first down.
Adam Thielen and Irv Smith Jr. both sat out this game, leaving a void to be filled in the passing offense. It was a pretty great job all-around by the committee, but it especially brought forth an emergence of Bisi Johnson.
The second year receiver had gotten few opportunities to this point in the season, catching just six passes in the first 10 games. Johnson more than doubled his season reception total, reeling in seven passes for a team-high 74 yards. If he can maintain a presence moving forward, it would take a ton of pressure off Thielen and Jefferson.