Jim Souhan
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Is Kirk Cousins the guy who sabotaged the Vikings’ season, or the one who saved it?

Is the Vikings defense made of terry cloth or Teflon?

Is Chad Beebe a special teams pariah for muffing a key punt, or a receiving savior for catching the winning touchdown pass?

Are the Vikings a good team digging out of a hole, or a bad team that’s in too deep?

If anyone claims to know the answer, you should hide your credit cards and car keys because it is as much of a lie as someone touting a no-strings-attached timeshare.

Midway through the fourth quarter of their game against Carolina at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, the Vikings trailed by 11 points, had given up touchdowns on consecutive plays to the same Panthers rookie, had produced zero sacks or 20-yard gains, and were about to fall into a tie in the standings with a Detroit Lions team that just fired its general manager and coach.

Although forensic scientists are checking to be sure, it seems that the Vikings rallied for a 28-27 victory, the winning points coming on Cousins’ 10-yard touchdown pass to Beebe with 46 seconds remaining, less than two minutes after Beebe’s misplay on a punt threatened to end the Vikings’ playoff hopes.

Logic is not invited to this party, and predictability just left with a designated driver. Any conclusions drawn during the game were rendered meaningless by its end.

Cousins was about to steer his team to a second straight embarrassing home loss against a losing team … before he completed six of seven passes for 75 yards and the winning touchdown in a 65-second drive with only one timeout available.

Carolina quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the former Viking, was about to complete a triumphant return … until he missed an open receiver in the end zone for what would have been a clinching touchdown.

Beebe was about to become a meme, a GIF, a trending hashtag redolent of bad special teams play … until he finished the game with seven catches for 63 yards and that touchdown.

The Vikings defense was about to become the group that couldn’t sack Bridgewater … until its stand after Beebe’s muffed punt forced Carolina to settle for a field goal.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was about to be the guy who lost a key timeout with a silly challenge … until the Vikings’ inability to use that timeout during their winning drive left the Panthers with so little time they had to try a last-second 54-yard field goal that missed.

The Vikings were about to become the team that lost consecutive home games to Dallas and Carolina to fall to an incomprehensible 1-5 at U.S. Bank Stadium … until they became the team that, with a win next Sunday against the horrid Jacksonville Jaguars, could take a 6-6 record to Tampa to play the suddenly slumping Buccaneers.

Pete Rozelle’s grand dream of parity is alive in today’s NFL, its inherent unpredictability enhanced by the risks of playing football in a pandemic.

If the Vikings had lost on Sunday, they would be stuck in the muck with the NFC’s worst teams, but if they had beaten Dallas the previous week, they would be 6-5 and might be in line for the playoffs if they did little else but beat bad teams and avoid a COVID outbreak.

NFL playoff picture

As it is, they’re a confounding group veering through a confounding season, trying to stay somewhat healthy and competitive, just to see how the movie ends.

“Each week is week to week,’’ Zimmer said.

That could be a cliché. It could be profound. He may have misspoken, or he may be printing up T-shirts bearing that phrase that will sell in the millions.

The Vikings are disappointing contenders, or overachieving underachievers, or just another team trying to remember to wear their masks and make the next play because you don’t know which games are going to be postponed until Tuesday or 2022, or if the team you’re chasing is going to be placed in a large actual latex bubble.

Each week is week to week, because it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at TalkNorth.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com