CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said he wants his team to find a killer instinct.
For now, he’s happy to settle for another win.
The Vikings (3-3) squandered an 11-point lead in the final 4:41 of regulation, then got a 27-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to K.J. Osborn on the ninth play of overtime to beat the Carolina Panthers 34-28 on Sunday.
“I mean, could we be better? Yeah. Could we be worse? Yeah. We are where we are,” Zimmer said. “But I like the resiliency of this team.”
The Panthers (3-3) had seized momentum after scoring a field goal, touchdown and 2-point conversion to tie the game at 28 with 46 seconds left as part of a frantic fourth quarter. Cousins responded by driving the Vikings downfield for the potential winning field goal, only to watch Greg Joseph push the kick wide right.
The Panthers had the momentum heading into overtime, for sure.
But the Vikings (3-3) won the coin toss and Cousins never allowed Sam Darnold to get the ball back, moving 75 yards in nine plays. He completed a third-and-3 pass to Osborn along the way for a crucial first down, and Dalvin Cook had 25 yards on three carries in the extra period.
An excited Zimmer even admitted he gave Cousins a celebratory shove after the winning TD pass.
“I said, ‘I like that!’” Zimmer said.
Zimmer also said he was exhausted after the 3-hour, 41-minute game — one the Vikings controlled in the second half and had several chances to put away. A made field goal here, a defensive stop there or a chain-moving play on offense all would have helped at times.
Still, the offense did enough, racking up 571 yards and 26 first downs while breaking a four-game streak of not scoring an offensive touchdown after halftime.
Cook, who finished with 140 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries, said it's up to the players — not Zimmer — to develop that killer mentality.
A week ago, the Vikings held on to beat the Detroit Lions on a last-second field goal by Joseph, another game that didn't have to be that hard.
Earlier this season they lost close games to the Bengals, Browns and Cardinals.
“That’s got something to do with us holding each other accountable, and that’s the next step we’ve got to take," said Cook, who pleaded with Zimmer to give him the ball in the overtime period. “Us leaders, older guys, whoever it is, we’ve just got to find a way to tap into that mode (going into) the second half of the season. It’s going to be important for us to rest up, get back ready and tap into a whole 'nother zone going into the second half of the season so we can get where we’re going.”
Cousins said there is a lot to improve upon, even after scoring a season-high 34 points.
“There is so much that we have to be better at,” Cousins said. “We have to be hungry to learn and hungry to correct. Not be content with a win in the sense that we have to be better and make adjustments and have a sense of urgency.”
The Vikings have some time to digest what they need to improve upon. They have a bye next weekend before embarking on a brutal five-game stretch that includes games against the Cowboys, Ravens, Chargers, Packers and 49ers.
“They’ve got to play us, too. Everyone says, ’Oh, you’ve got to play these teams,'" Cook said. "But they’ve got to play the Vikings.”
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