1. B-Flo gets preferred QB. Marcus Davenport's first sack as a Viking was one of many examples of rookie Bryce Young being as overwhelmed by Brian Flores' blitz-happy defense as Justin Herbert was unfazed by it a week earlier. With the Panthers in field goal range and facing third-and-8 early in the fourth quarter, Flores showed pressure, rushed four and used Jordan Hicks to spy on Young. Young panicked, hesitated and, well, bye-bye field goal. Frank Reich's offense was too conservative — gaining 2 or fewer yards on 10 first-down runs — and didn't challenge the Vikings' suspect secondary deep. Andy Dalton, with a 109.1 passer rating against pressure at Seattle last week when Young was injured, was Carolina's best chance to beat B-Flo.
2. Take a bow, Vikings fans. None of Carolina's six penalties for 80 yards hurt more than receiver Terrace Marshall Jr.'s false start on third-and-goal at the 3 in the first quarter. The Panthers had nine false starts at Seattle, but this never should have been a problem at home. Then again, Vikings fans are a large and very noisy bunch on the road. Kevin O'Connell owes y'all a shoutout for helping the Panthers settle for a field goal after that false start. Another killer flag: tackle Ikem Ekwonu's illegal man downfield penalty negating a 13-yard completion down to the Vikings 8. Two plays later, Harrison Smith's strip sack led to D.J. Wonnum's game-changing 51-yard touchdown return for a 14-13 lead.
3. KOC outcoaches Reich. Offensive-minded coaches don't get game balls when they post 265 yards while going 1-for-8 on third down. But O'Connell's decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 from his 44 early in the second quarter was brave, a difference-maker at a critical moment and a high-percentage call that saw Justin Jefferson grab an easy 5-yard reception to sustain a calming 10-play, 64-yard touchdown drive at a point when Carolina led 10-0. Meanwhile, Reich sat on two timeouts as roughly 17 seconds — two plays — ran off the clock with his offense at the Vikings 41 right before halftime. Carolina settled for a 56-yard field goal rather than test the Vikings with anything down the field.
4. More Cam, please. How's this for a healthy one-two backfield punch in Cam Akers' first game as a Viking? Of the Vikings' 14 first-down runs for 104 yards (7.4 yards per carry), Alexander Mattison carried 10 times for 71 yards and a 7.1-yard average while Akers carried four times for 33 yards and an 8.25-yard average. Akers is a smoother runner, and Mattison runs harder when he's fresher and fighting for his carries. The Vikings had six first-down runs of 9 or more yards. Mattison had first-down runs of 17, 13 and 12 yards. Akers didn't have a first-down carry under 7 yards. His second 9-yard first-down run set up a Jefferson 30-yard touchdown pass off play action on second-and-1.
5. What's up, Kirk? Kirk Cousins has lost games when he's been spot on. And he's won games like Sunday when he's been anything but. His 99-yard pick six was thrown painfully late and was unacceptable for a smart veteran. Another one of those Kirk Konundrum moments came after Davenport's fourth-quarter sack — a deflating three-and-out that took only 1:29 off the clock and handed the ball back to Carolina with 7:20 left in a one-score game. A 9-yard Mattison run on first down was followed by a 1-yard loss by Mattison. It was third-and-2, a time for Cousins to earn those big Benjamins. He overthrew Jefferson near the sideline and took a seat until the defense clinched the win.
The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.