How They Rate

SPECIAL TEAMS

They started with a kickoff return for a touchdown by Steve Smith, let's start off with them. Smith was virtually untouched on his 93-yard kickoff return. John Kasay hit his only field goal attempt and was perfect on 3-extra point attempts. Punter Todd Sauerbrun kept Minnesota backing up by averaging 49 yards per kick. CAT TRACKS: 4 PAWS

QUARTERBACK

Chris Weinke wasn't perfect in his debut, but he sure was pretty good. He threw only one interception (and it came on an ill-advised pass), his touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad threaded a needle to get there. He didn't let his mistakes effect him and he kept his composure in front in one of the toughest enviroments in the league. CAT TRACKS: 4 PAWS

RUNNING BACK

The Panthers gained 91 yards on the ground, and may have unveiled their new star in the backfield in rookie Nick Goings. He rushed for 86 yards on 25 attempts. Tshimanga Biakabutuka was largely ineffective. The one long run he got was called back on a hold and he lost a fumble with the Panthers in easy field goal territory in the first half. CAT TRACKS: 2 1/2 PAWS

OFFENSIVE LINE

Definately an improvement here over last year. But, there were a lot of penalties (many on Todd Steussie who was playing back in Minnesota after 7 years with the Vikings). Weinke was sacked just twice but, the running game still failled to yield 100 yards (gaining just 91). It's something to build on, but still just a start. CAT TRACKS: 2 PAWS

WIDE RECEIVERS

Muhsin Muhammad was the only receiver to make more than one catch, he had four, including a touchdown grab. There were a number of dropped passes by this unit. But, a bunch of guys did get involved. CAT TRACKS: 2 1/2 PAWS

TIGHT END

Four words takes care of this "Wesley Walls is back". Bouncing back impressively from a season-ending knee injury at the halfway point last year, Walls looked like he hasn't lost anything (take that USA Today which called him an overrated tight end among fantasy picks). Walls had 3 catches for 74 yards including one amazing grab. Unfortunately, the rest of the unit contributed little in the production department, pulling down the overall score. CAT TRACKS: 3 1/2 PAWS

DEFENSIVE LINE

Not a bad showing for this unit. They did a decent job keeping pressure on Duante Culpepper and still keeping him from getting off much in the "damaging run" department. They registered just one sack and did give up 109 yards rushing (more than half of those were Culpepper's). CAT TRACKS: 3 PAWS

LINEBACKERS

A solid effort from this unit. First round pick Dan Morgan was everywhere, and didn't let a groin pull effect him much in the second half. They were solid in coverage, but did let a few too many underneath routes get open in the second half. Dean Wells was the team's leading tackler with 6. CAT TRACKS: 3 PAWS

DEFENSIVE BACKS

These guys did what no one believed they could: hold Randy Moss to just one catch. Cris Carter pulled in just 5 but on his touchdown, for instance, he was well-covered. Rashard Anderson, Jimmy Hitchcock and Damien Richardson combined for 13 tackles; Anderson, Hitchcock and Deon Grant each had interceptions. Most importantly, they excuted John Marshall's gameplan to near perfection and didn't allow the expected aerial show to ever get off the ground. CAT TRACKS: 4 PAWS

COACHING

As we see it, the Panthers came in with a better gameplan and executed it to near perfection. They kept Minnesota's high-powered offense off-balance and produced enough of a running game to eat the clock and keep the Vikings off the field. After one week, George Seifert appears to be on track with his youth movement. CAT TRACKS: 4 PAWS


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