The Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings both came into Week Four looking for their first win of the season. The afternoon started off positive when safety Sam Franklin – starting in place of the injured Xavier Woods – intercepted Kirk Cousins at the 1 yard line and returned it 99 yards for the touchdown. It was the longest interception returned for a touchdown in franchise history. The play came a few plays after Franklin was whistled for pass interference at Carolina’s 4-yard line. The Panthers defense forced a 3-and-out on the next series and the Panthers embarked on a 15-play drive that ate up 8:26, but could only muster 3 points with a 26 yard field goal by Eddy Pineiro. This particular drive illustrated just how abysmal the day went for Carolina’s offense who couldn’t get into the end zone despite getting a fresh set of downs with the ball on the 3-yard line.
Fueled by a 33-yard kickoff return by Ty Chandler, the Vikings drew within 3 points after Cousins connected with Justin Jefferson for a 4-yard touchdown with 9:43 to play in the first half. After trading a few possessions, the Panthers got a spark from their defense as Kamu Grugier-Hill intercepted Cousins at the 13 yard line with under a minute left in the half. Pineiro booted a 56-yard field goal – the longest of his career – as time expired.
Offensive issues continued for the Panthers into this week’s game; the only touchdown came from the defense and that was in the first drive of the game. Untimely sacks and penalties killed several drives. The Vikings scored 14 unanswered points in the third quarter and it was enough to keep Carolina winless as they prepare to travel to a Detroit Lions team that’s 3-1 and surging. The first of those third quarter touchdowns came when Bryce Young was sacked at Minnesota’s 40 yard line and fumbled. D.J. Wonnum recovered the ball for the scoop and score, giving the Vikings their first lead of the day with 3:58 left in the third quarter. On their next possession, Minnesota scored the final points of the afternoon when Cousins connected with Jefferson for a 30-yard touchdown; their second of the day. It was a rough day at the office for Young who was sacked five times in the second half – twice on the Panthers’ final drive of the game. He finished 25-of-32 for 204 yards. Cousins was 12-of-19 for 139 yards, two interceptions, and two touchdowns. Jefferson led all receivers with six catches for 85 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Vikings came in averaging 66.3 rushing yards per game and were ranked 31st in the league in that category. They had half that on the opening drive and 135 rushing yards for the game, led by Alexander Mattison’s 95 yards.
It’s Minnesota’s first win of the season while Carolina drops to 0-4.