CHARLOTTE - The Panthers got the defensive plays they needed from rookie safety Jeremy Chinn.
They didn't get them late enough, or often enough.
A faltering offense left the door open for Kirk Cousins, and the Vikings quarterback led his team to a dramatic 28-27 win.
That spoiled a two-touchdown day for Chinn, but the bigger problem was an offense that couldn't get going early and stalled again late.
CHINN AGAIN AND AGAIN
The Panthers were a little flat in the first half, until Chinn's two-touchdown outburst early in the third quarter.
His first came when defensive tackle Zach Kerr forced a Kirk Cousins fumble, and Chinn scooped it up and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown.
On the Vikings' next offensive play, running back Dalvin Cook was struggling for extra yards when the ball came loose, and Chinn plucked it out of a knot of people and ran it back 28 yards for the points.
He's been an active and involved player all year as he learns to play linebacker on the fly. There have been flashes of his ability, but Sunday was a lightning-striking-the-same-spot kind of occurrence, and it was exactly what the Panthers needed.
ROUGH RETURN FOR TEDDY
Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's return to Minnesota didn't start the way he hoped, with an early interception in the red zone.
Despite that, and a general lack of rhythm in the first half, he hit one big play that salvaged it.
His easy pitch-and-run to Robby Anderson went 41 yards for a touchdown, which is the only thing that made his 7-of-15 for 96-yard first half seem respectable.
If it was emotion, that's one thing, but it wasn't an efficient start. Bridgewater completed just one of his first seven passes on the day but settled in as the game went on.
Worse than the early flubs were the late problems.
After recovering a muffed punt by Vikings wide receiver Chad Beebe, the Panthers proceeded to go three-and-out and take just 16 seconds off the clock.
That left enough time for Cousins to drive against a patchwork secondary, hitting Beebe for the game-winning touchdown and some redemption.
Bridgewater moved them in position for a 54-yard field goal attempt by Joey Slye, but he missed to leave the Panthers 4-8.
LATE INJURIES A CONCERN
Panthers wide receiver DJ Moore had to be helped off the field after landing awkwardly during the fourth quarter and injuring his right ankle.
And Bridgewater also came off in apparent pain after spiking the ball to stop the clock for the final field goal attempt.
The Panthers have a bye week to rest, but those are major concerns for a team without a lot of margin of error.