In a game in which the Vikings bent and broke defensively, never got any rhythm on offense and had an injured kicker on special teams, it wasn't that one phase of the team collapsed. There was plenty of blame to go around and be shared.
"This was embarrassing," cornerback Chris Cook said. "This isn't what our team is about. We're better than this and we just didn't show it today. We've just got to bounce back and learn from our mistakes. We can't have games like this."
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the game for the Vikings was that Carolina sucked the momentum out of them early, making good on a 15-play drive that included a pair of fourth-down conversions and at nine-and-a-half minutes off the game clock. It dug an early hole for the Vikings that would continue throughout the game, as Carolina converted 7 of 12 third downs, and in two of the five instances when the Vikings stopped them on third down the Panthers converted on fourth down.
"The hard part was that we had them in the situations where we wanted them, but we just couldn't make plays on third downs," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "It was a frustrating performance and you kind of search for what you have to do to change things around. Those long drives in the first half really took the wind out of our sails."
Greenway said there was anger, frustration disappointment, disbelief – pick your own word choice. He came up with one that summed things up pretty completely.
"Whatever negative emotion you want to tag it with," Greenway said. "‘Surprised' would be one you can put to it. As a team, you have to look at yourself first and look at you can improve on and then eventually improve as a group together."
What made the Vikings flat performance so shocking was that it came after the team was rested from its bye week and, more importantly, it was in front of the Vikings' home fans – who haven't been used to seeing the Vikings lose in the Metrodome.
"It's absolutely embarrassing," Brian Robison said. "Then you add the fact that we did it at home in front of our fans, where we pride ourselves in playing good ball. There's really no other way you can describe it but embarrassing."
The source of frustration defensively centered on the Vikings not being able to translate the things they had practiced and preached to their players to the field on Sunday. For Robison, that was the most critical part of the defensive collapse Sunday.
"We keep saying we're going to be gap-scheme – we're going to this and we're going to do that," Robison said. "But the bottom line is that on Sundays we're not doing it. Somehow, some way we have to find a way to play better, stand up and get a win."
In what was one of the most humbling defeats the Vikings have suffered in recent memory, not everyone felt the team had humiliated themselves. If the Vikings are going to erase the type of performance they put in Sunday, it's going to take a team effort and tight end Kyle Rudolph believes the Vikings have the players who are willing to fight and try to turn things around in the final 11 games of the season.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.