The Panthers used an explosive play on nearly every one of their scoring drives as a catalyst toward domination. Plus, we examine more than 20 other notes that led to the Vikings' deflating defeat in Carolina.
One of the things Mike Tice has spoken the most of when breaking down X's and O's following games is the term "explosive plays." You can have turnovers, you can have drops, but explosive plays – those of more than 20 yards – are the ones that serve as backbreakers to an opponent.
The Panthers stuck daggers in the Vikings all day Sunday with explosive plays throughout the game – all of them playing a pivotal role in the game.
Perhaps the most misleading stat of the season is that of Fred Smoot
, who had nine tackles and one assist to lead the team. Why? Because John Fox and the Panthers treated him like he owed them money. Smoot was going to be matched up with Steve Smith
all day, and it didn't take long for the big plays to start coming.
In the first quarter, Smith caught a 30-yard pass from Jake Delhomme
that would become a touchdown on the next play, giving the Panthers a lead they would never relinquish.
The Panthers followed that up in the second quarter with a 38-yard pass to seldom-used tight end Michael Gaines
for a hookup that put the Panthers in field goal range. The Vikings defense would stop them from there, but the damage was done and John Kasay
hit a 44-yard field goal and a 10-0 Carolina lead. On the next possession, Smith caught a 69-yard pass that looked like a 70-yard TD. But instead it left the Panthers on the doorstep for another TD and a 17-0 lead – all from drives that included explosive pass plays.
Things fared little better in the second half. Already down 24-0 at the half, the Vikings tried to bring something of a spark after scoring on the first drive of the second half. But, passes of 24 yards to Smith and 29 yards to Gaines took the Panthers from their own 25 to the Vikings 6, where Delhomme would finish the drive with a TD pass to Kris Mangum
and a 31-7 lead.
As if it wasn't bad enough already, Delhomme got an explosive pass in the fourth quarter – a 25-yard touchdown to Keary Colbert
– to make the rout complete. Of the Panthers' 38 points, 31 of them were the direct result of explosive pass plays – something that won't be lost on future Vikings opponents.
There was no immediate definitive word on the severity of the injury to Daunte Culpepper, but the early speculation is that he could be lost for the season with ligament damage in his right knee.
Steve Smith set a franchise record with 11 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown. The worst part of it is that if the Vikings had been closer, it might have been worse. The Panthers ran much of the second half, limiting Smith to just four catches for 48 yards after catching seven passes for 153 yards in the first half.
Carolina racked up 452 total yards of offense – averaging 6.5 yards per snap.
Although it was little consolation, the Vikings defense allowed the Panthers just 2.8 yards per rush – 112 yards on 39 carries.
There were no turnovers for either team.
The Panthers didn't have to punt until 3:20 remained in the third quarter.
Chris Kluwe continued to be a rare bright spot for the Vikings. The punter hit five punts for an average of 48.6 yards a kick.
Thanks to being able to control the clock late in the game, the Panthers maintained their time of possession edge – finishing with a 35:51 to 24:09 advantage.
The Vikings had 10 penalties, but that wasn't the worst of it – two more were declined, two more were negated by offsetting penalties and two more were picked up by the officials.
Carolina came into the game allowing just 77.7 yards a game rushing. The Vikings could manage just 82 yards on 18 attempts.
Of the Vikings' rushing yards, the team's running backs ran 12 times for 36 yards and the quarterbacks ran five times for 48 yards.
The Panthers are scoring more than 10 points a game more this year than they averaged in 2004 – the greatest point increase by any team in the NFL.
Mangum's touchdown in the second half was the 19th tight end touchdown in the last 20 games against the Vikings defense.
The Panthers' domination of the first half was complete. They led in time of possession with 17:31, outgained the Vikings 287-76 and had 16 first downs as opposed to just three by the Vikings.
The Vikings had just two more yards in the entire first half (76) than they had on their first drive of the second half.
Koren Robinson was blasted on a kickoff return by Ricky Manning of the Panthers and was replaced in the second by Troy Williamson. Robinson was listed with a concussion.
The first-half 17-point deficit was the fourth time in five games that the Vikings have trailed by 17 or more.
In the first quarter, the Panthers had 17 offensive plays, as opposed to just nine for the Vikings.
Culpepper started taking his lumps early. On the first three plays offensively that he was on the field, he got blitzed on all three – one of them being a sack and another in which his he got hit as he threw and the ball fell incomplete.
The Vikings didn't pick up a first down until two minutes remained in the first quarter.
Things got started ugly for the Vikings, who were called offside on two of the game's first five plays.