Vikings spoil Teddy Bridgewater's return, Panthers' playoff hopes

Teddy Bridgewater's return to Minnesota as a starting quarterback went much like the much of the season has for the Carolina Panthers.

Good, but not good enough.

The dramatic 28-27 loss to the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium all but ended any chance Carolina had at making a late run for the playoffs.

They are 4-8 after blowing a 24-13 fourth-quarter lead highlighted by defensive touchdowns on consecutive plays by rookie linebacker/safety Jeremy Chinn to start the second half.

But that was all erased with 46 seconds left when Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins found Chad Beebe for the winning touchdown pass.

Bridgewater still had a chance to be the hero, leading Carolina to the Minnesota 36 with six seconds left. However, Joey Slye's attempt at a game-winning 54-yard field goal never had a chance; he hooked it wide left.

So while Chinn solidified himself as a top candidate for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year with fumble returns for touchdowns of 17 and 28 yards, the young defense wasn't good enough down the stretch to pull off the upset heading into the bye week.

And Bridgewater's homecoming was spoiled.

Bridgewater wasn't spectacular in his return to where his career started in 2014 and almost ended during the 2016 training camp when he suffered a dislocated left knee and torn ACL. He started 1-for-7 passing for 4 yards, including an interception in the red zone.

But he played more than well enough to win, proving that his sprained right knee that kept him out of last week's 20-0 victory against Detroit was sound with two scrambles for 12 yards. He rebounded from the slow start to complete 19 of 36 pass attempts for 267 yards and a touchdown.

He also missed an open DJ Moore in the end zone on third-and-goal from the 3 with less than two minutes left that could have ended this one.

His day ended with him running off the field prior to Slye's miss with an undisclosed injury. Bridgewater said he "hurt something in my arm," but it didn't appear to be serious.

Coach Matt Rhule didn’t put the blame for the loss on a missed kick or pass or anything the players did.

"Instead of pointing fingers, I’d rather point the thumb back at me," he said. "I’m disappointed in myself and my staff tonight."

Desperate times: Both teams played like this was their last chance to have a shot at the playoffs, which made for an exciting second half and a lot of big plays on both sides.

Troubling trend: This must feel like a broken record, but the third-down defense continued to struggle. The Vikings went 4-for-4 on third down on the opening drive, including a touchdown pass to Justin Jefferson. The defense did improve as the game went on and held Minnesota to 4-for-8 in the first half and 6-for-14 for the game and 1-for-1 on fourth down.