NOTEBOOK: Dominance Revisited

The 38-13 score obviously points to a Carolina domination, but we look at the key statistical areas where the Panthers did their business efficiently and the Vikings fell on their collective faces. In many of those statistical cases, it has been a season-long trend on the road.

The Carolina Panthers didn't just win on the scoreboard Sunday, they dominated the Minnesota Vikings in nearly every key statistical category.

The important statistics the Vikings have focused on this season have been third-down conversions, penalties and turnovers.

The Panthers won two of those three and had a draw on turnovers, with neither team committing one.

The Vikings defense allowed the Panthers to convert a whopping 62 percent of their third downs (8 of 13). It was the worst performance of the season for the Vikings in that realm, falling far short of safety Darren Sharper's stated goal of holding an offense to a 30 percent conversion rate. Only against New Orleans (16.7 percent) and Chicago (30 percent) have the Vikings held their opponent under a 45 percent conversion rate.

Sunday, that tied directly into the penalty category, since Carolina was allowed to move the chains on four defensive penalties on the Vikings.

Overall, the Vikings committed 10 penalties for 57 yards, compared to Carolina's six penalties for 53 yards.

The Vikings were dominated in many other areas – total net yards (452-253), net yards passing (341-171) and yards per pass attempt (11.0-4.8) – but of the three key statistical categories that mattered most, the Panthers jumped on top of the Vikings and made them bleed.

The only key category the Vikings have shown significant progress on is the turnovers. Minnesota's quarterbacks haven't thrown an interception in the last two games, but the team is still minus-8 turnover differential, thanks in part to getting only six interceptions on the season and one in the last four games. That corresponds with only four sacks in the last four games.

TALE OF TWO LINES

For the second straight game, the Vikings were denied in their attempts to get a sack.

And continuing a season-long trend, Minnesota's quarterbacks were sacked and pressured too often. Daunte Culpepper opened the game with a sack by Will Witherspoon, and after Culpepper was knocked out of the game with a sprained right knee and the Panthers had finished their assault, Carolina had amassed four sacks to the Vikings' none.

The Vikings have given up 28 sacks in their last five games; they have produced only seven of their own, including none in the last two games.

"We are coming along," head coach Mike Tice said of the offensive line last week. "We are making great strides. We are still giving up too many sacks, but not always attributable to the line."

ROAD PENALTIES

The Vikings had another 10 penalties – including four in their first two offensive drives – for 57 yards. It was the third time this season Minnesota has gone into double digits in penalties, with all three of those games being on the road.

"You need to bring a mental toughness with you. We brought that mental toughness with us to Green Bay last year in the playoffs and it paid off," Tice said last week. "We need to bring that same mental toughness with us to Carolina. What mental toughness is that? When nothing bothers you. If the bed is lumpy, big deal. If the meal is crummy, who cares. You can't sleep at night, then play without any rest. The field is soft, play on a soft field. The locker room is too small, so what? You can't let anything bother you when you are on the road because you are not in your familiar surroundings."

Consider the Vikings bothered.

ROAD DEFICITS

As might be expected, the Vikings' road woes and statistical ineptitude has led to them getting behind early and impressively.

On the road, it hasn't even been close, with the Vikings being outscored 133-34.

Why is that? Don't look to the first half for any help, as the Vikings have managed only three points in the opening half in the their four road games against Cincinatti, Atlanta, Chicago and Carolina. Conversely, they have given up 81 first-half points in those contests.

RED ZONE WOES

The biggest disparity in rankings between the Vikings and Panthers entering Sunday's game was in red zone efficiency. Carolina entered the game with an NFL-best red zone efficiency of 77.8 percent, meaning they had scored touchdowns on 14 of the 18 times they got inside their opponents' 20-yard line. The Vikings were ranked 30th in that category, scoring only four touchdowns in 17 trips inside the red zone for a 23.5 percent efficiency.

The Vikings knew they needed to improve in that category.

"I think what we'll try to do is move the football and do a better job in the red zone, whatever that takes," Tice said last week. "As you saw (against Green Bay), if that means no running back, we are willing to do that."

The trends continued Sunday. The Panthers were 4-for-4 while the Vikings were 2-for-4 in the red zone.

DEACTIVES

The Vikings' deactive list included a pair of surprises. LB Dontarrious Thomas and DE Spencer Johnson were both thought to be healthy enough to play if needed, but both were deactivated, along with QB Shaun Hill, CB Laroni Gallishaw, CB Dovonte Edwards, OL Anthony Herrera and Toniu Fonoti and TE Jeff Dugan.

The Panthers deactivated QB Stephan LeFors, WR Drew Carter, RB Jamal Robertson, CB Garnell Wilds, OL Dave Kadela and Geoff Hangartner, TE Mike Seidman and DE Jovan Haye.


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