The Vikings were spurred by two touchdowns on special teams, but the offense and defense were nearly as good in the 31-13 win.
In a game where the offense picks up on 12 first downs, it isn’t unusual to see a final score of 31-13. But, almost invariably, the 31points doesn’t belong to the team with the 12 first downs.
In what was arguably the most complete game the Vikings have played in all three phases of the game since their Week 1 blowout of the St. Louis Rams
, the offense and defense came up big when they had to and special teams had one of the most explosive days in years.
“I think it was the best full-team performance we’ve had this year,” wide receiver Jarius Wright
said. “You can’t say enough about what the special teams did. On offense, we made some plays when we needed them and the defense didn’t let them get much all day. From the overall look of thing, I’d say this was our best game of the season in all three phases.”
Offensively, Teddy Bridgewater
had his most efficient day as a pro, completing 15 of 21 passes for 138 yards with two touchdowns and a passer rating of a career-best 120.7.
While those numbers may not inspire a lot of confidence, the two blocked punts that went for touchdowns changed how the offense was run, and getting any sort of rhythm was difficult because the offense was on the sidelines for so much of the game.
“I think what made Teddy’s performance so big was that we didn’t have any rhythm going because of the blocked punts,” tight end Kyle Rudolph
said. “Prior to the last drive of the half, we’re sitting at about three minutes left in the half and we had only run like 12 plays with the offense on the field. That usually isn’t a good sign, but it was today.”
The Panthers ran 72 plays, as opposed to just 48 for the Vikings.
Carolina held the ball for 35:48 of the game, as opposed to just 24:12 for the Vikings.
At halftime, the Panthers had the ball for 21:43 of the first half and ran 42 plays, as opposed to just 22 for the Vikings, but trailed 28-6.
Defensively, the Vikings leaders were happy, but not fully satisfied with their performances, a sentiment echoed by both Brian Robison
and Everson Griffen
“We had a good game, but I still don’t feel like we played a complete game,” Robison said. “We came out in the second half and let them march down the field and score. When we get in a situation like that, we’ve got to put our foot on their throats and keep it there.”
“It was a little shaky (at times), but we just kept on going, we kept on fighting and we kept doing the right things,” Griffen said. “As long as each player is doing the right things every single down, you’re going to have a successful day.”
The Vikings put together a solid three-pronged performance, and, in the end, the numbers that counted the most was the “5” the Vikings were able to put in the win column for the season.
“In this game, it’s all about getting a ‘W,’” Captain Munnerlyn
said. “Everybody contributed. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was effective.”
GAME DAY NOTES
Munnerlyn was ecstatic after the game, having notched a win over his former team, saying, “I can go back to Charlotte with a smile on my face and, when I see the guys, I can remind them, ‘Hey, hey, hey, hey now, we beat y’all.’” Munnerlyn spent his first five years as a member of the Panthers.
It wasn’t all good news for the Vikings Sunday. Shariff Floyd left the game in the first half after re-aggravating a knee injury. He didn’t return to the game in the second half. Anthony Barr left the game with a knee injury – a flare-up of a condition that has bothering him for the last couple of games since the bye week.
In what was perhaps the unsung move of the game, with five minutes left in the third quarter, it appeared as though the Vikings were going to have their third straight three-and-out drive of the second half after Bridgewater scrambled for what appeared to be a first down but was ruled short. Mike Zimmer challenged the call and won. The difference was huge, as the Panthers were behind 28-13 at the time with a chance to grab momentum they would never get.
Griffen recorded his 10th and 11th sacks of the season – his first season with double-digit sacks after replacing Jared Allen – who had 10 or more sacks in each of his seasons with the Vikings.
Blair Walsh is in his third season, but he set the franchise record for touchbacks with 134. The old record was held by Fred Cox, who played 15 seasons with the Vikings.
Cam Newton had another sub-par day, completing 18 of 35 passes for 194 yards with one touchdown, one interception and a passer rating of just 65.7.
The Vikings sacked Newton four times and flushed him from the pocket with regularity Sunday.
Ben Tate made his Vikings debut, rushing five times for 25 yards. Matt Asiata led on the ground with 14 carries for 52 yards with Jerick McKinnon sidelined.
Bridgewater threw a touchdown in his sixth straight game and has thrown two TDs in each of the last two games.
Cordarrelle Patterson didn’t play a snap with the offense in the first half. He saw action in the second half, but didn’t catch a pass. He was targeted just once in the game.
Chad Greenway led the Vikings with 10 tackles, followed by Harrison Smith with eight and Jasper Brinkley with seven.
Thanks to the first blocked punt of the game, the Panthers dominated the first quarter stats as well, other than scoreboard. Carolina ran 22 plays as opposed to just eight for the Vikings and held the ball for 11:16 of the first 15 minutes, yet trailed by 11 points.
The Panthers put together a 14-play drive that got them down to the 10-yard line late in the first quarter, but the Vikings defense stiffened and forced Carolina to settle for a field goal to cut the Vikings’ lead to 14-3.
The Vikings got off to a fast start after deferring on the opening kickoff. After getting a three-and-out following a sack by Floyd, a brutal 28-yard punt by Brad Nortman set the Vikings up in Carolina territory for the opening drive. Bridgewater completed all three passes he threw for 35 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown to Rudolph to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead five minutes into the game.
Rudolph’s touchdown was his first TD since Week 1. He tied Stu Voigt for third place among Vikings tight ends with 17 career touchdowns.
In what was likely an NFL record, there were three guys named Charles Johnson in the game – Vikings wide receiver Charles Johnson, guard Charlie Johnson and Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson.
The paid attendance was 52,016, although the actual attendance was several thousand less as fans weren’t willing to brave the brutal elements, especially at the top of the upper deck.
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