MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings playoff hopes are still alive … somehow.
Minnesota rallied for a stunning 28-27 win over Carolina on Sunday, completing a wild and wacky fourth-quarter comeback in which the Vikings overcame a double-digit deficit with less than six minutes remaining in regulation.
Down 24-13, the Vikings scored on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Justin Jefferson, with Bisi Johnson adding the 2-point conversion.
And although the Panthers kicked a field goal to go up by six, Carolina left Minnesota with nearly two minutes on the clock … which was more than enough time for Kirk Cousins.
The quarterback engineered a 75-yard scoring drive that took just seven plays, and was capped off with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Chad Beebe, who reeled in the first scoring reception of his career.
Cousins completed 6-of-7 passes on the drive, finding Jefferson, Beebe and Rudolph along the way. Dan Bailey's extra point gave Minnesota a one-point cushion.
The Vikings had to sweat it out at the end, but the Panthers missed a 54-yard field goal in the final seconds.
Minnesota is now 5-6 and just one game back in the NFC Wild Card race. Arizona lost Sunday to drop to 6-5. Chicago is 5-5 heading into Sunday night's game against Green Bay.
Here are four more takeaways from Sunday afternoon:
1. An ugly 3rd quarter
Minnesota nearly saw its playoff chances evaporate in just 69 seconds on Sunday.
Up by a field goal at halftime, the Vikings fumbled on their third play of the third quarter. Cousins was sacked by Zach Kerr, and Jeremy Chinn picked up the loose ball and scampered 17 yards for a score — and the lead.
The nightmare continued on the very next offensive play, as Dalvin Cook was stripped after a 3-yard gain. Chinn wrestled the ball loose and raced 28 yards for a second score in as many plays.
But Minnesota's disastrous third quarter — the Vikings were outscored 14-0 — set the stage for a furious fourth-quarter rally.
View game images as the Vikings take on the Carolina Panthers at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
2. An up-and-down day on special teams
Minnesota's special teams units have struggled for most of the season, and Sunday was no different in that phase.
But if you're looking for an unheralded play from Sunday's win, remember D.J. Wonnum's blocked 28-yard field goal a little past the midway point in the third quarter.
The Vikings trailed 21-10 at the time, and would have been down two touchdowns if the kick was good. Those three points played a big factor at the end of the game.
Perhaps the biggest miscue came late in the fourth quarter, when the Vikings defense had gotten a much-needed stop. With Carolina up by a field goal, Beebe muffed a punt and the Panthers recovered with 2 minutes and 10 seconds to play.
Minnesota also allowed a 20-yard punt return to Carolina.
Minnesota didn't record a kickoff return Sunday, as Ameer Abdullah opted for a touchback on all six chances. He was in for rookie K.J. Osborn, who was inactive. Long snapper Austin Cutting was also inactive, as Andrew DePaola handled those duties for the second week in a row.
3. Kendricks does it again
Another week, another interception for Eric Kendricks. And if it seems like the linebacker taking the ball away from the offense has become a weekly occurrence, you're about right.
Kendricks nabbed his third pick in four games on Sunday, this one coming against his former teammate, Teddy Bridgewater.
Carolina had third-and-11 at the Vikings 12 when Kendricks stepped in front of a crossing route for a red-zone takeaway.
He now has a career-best three interceptions in 2019, which is tied for the team lead with Eric Wilson and Harrison Smith.
All three of Kendricks' picks in 2020 have been recorded inside the Vikings 20-yard line. He nabbed one against the Lions in the end zone, while the takeaway against the Cowboys came at the 17-yard line.
Kendricks and Wilson are tied for the most picks by NFL linebackers this season.
4. Jefferson and & Johnson shine with Thielen out
Adam Thielen didn't play Sunday, as the star wide receiver was still on the Reserve/COVID-19 list at kickoff.
Jefferson and Bisi Johnson picked up the slack in his absence.
Jefferson had his second multi-score game of the season, as he scored on 12- and 10-yard plays against the Panthers. He finished with seven receptions for 70 yards.
Johnson had a career-high seven catches for 74 yards, a handful of which were chunk plays. He had a trio of 17-yard catches, plus a 16-yarder and the aforementioned 2-point conversion.
Rudolph (68 yards) and Beebe (63 yards and a score) also had seven receptions on the day.