With just over a minute to go before halftime and the Vikings down 10-3, Antoine Wingfield sacked Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme and returned it for a 25-yard touchdown that tied the game but gave momentum to the Purple Plunderers, who refused to give it back.
The game marked the return of wide receiver Steve Smith, who caught four passes for 70 yards on a day when rushing yardage was hard to come by for Carolina.
The Minnesota defensive line was the story of the game, stuffing the run early and hounding Delhomme late. Carolina was limited to 49 yards rushing, while the Panthers were penalized 12 times for 67 yards, most coming on false starts by the offensive line.
The Vikings, meanwhile, rushed successfully on their visitors, with Adrian Peterson, who played through a hamstring injury that limited him in practice all week, gaining 77 yards on 17 carries and Chester Taylor adding 44 yards on 11 attempts.
Early on, it looked like Carolina's defense had the game under control. Minnesota was unable to cross midfield until six minutes remained in the first half. Jonathon Stewart's touchdown run gave the Panthers what seemed a pretty safe cushion, but Wingfield's play, coming off a cornerback blitz, changed everything.
The Vikings took control early in the second half when quarterback Gus Frerotte hit Bernard Berrian with a 48-yard strike, then followed with a 34-yard touchdown to Visanthe Shiancoe.
The Panthers had no answer. They got one first down and then allowed the Vikings an 18-play, 11:34 drive that ended in a Ryan Longwell field goal for the final margin.
Delhomme finished 17-for-29 for 191 yards, but was unable to sustain anything due to the Minnesota pass rush.
The Panthers host their upstart I-85 rivals -- the Atlanta Falcons -- next Sunday with first place in the NFC South on the line. Atlanta, Carolina and defending champion Tampa Bay are all 2-1.
Vikings pillage Panthers
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