Grading The Game: Panthers

The Vikings' defensive plan focused on one way to skin a Cat, and it was the Panthers that attacked that wound mercilessly, as Steve Smith pounced on a franchise record 201 yards receiving. The Vikings' pass defense received the worst of their poor grades.

PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus — The Vikings had a season-low 171 yards through the air; only the second time this season they have fallen below the 200-yard mark. Daunte Culpepper was 3-for-4 for 28 yards and had been sacked twice when he suffered a season-ending torn ACL in his right knee on the final play of the first quarter. Brad Johnson completed 13 of 28 passes for 162 yards with a touchdown over the final three quarters. Neither quarterback had an interception, and they were sacked a combined four times as the Panthers blitzed throughout the game.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus — The Vikings fell behind early, and as a result ended up running the ball only 18 times for a 4.6-yard average. The team rushed for 82 yards with Mewelde Moore and Brad Johnson — yes, Brad Johnson — tying for the lead with 30 yards on the ground. The Vikings' longest run of the day was Daunte Culpepper's 18-yard scramble that ended with him being helped off the field with a knee injury.

PASS DEFENSE: F — Assigned to cover Carolina receiver Steve Smith throughout the afternoon, Fred Smoot decided to talk trash before the game. Smith made him pay. The receiver caught 11 passes for a team-record 210 yards and a touchdown. Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns as the Vikings, and Smoot in particular, looked lost anytime the ball was in the air.

RUSH DEFENSE: B — With the way its passing game was looking, Carolina had no real need to establish the run. The Panthers did gain 111 yards on the ground, but that was only an average of 2.8 yards per carry. The Vikings continued to stick with their base 3-4 look and big nose tackle Pat Williams continues to be a standout. Pro Bowl end/tackle Kevin Williams, however, continues to look out of shape and it's clear his conditioning, or lack of it, remains an issue.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C — A week after hitting a game-winning 56-yard field goal to beat the Green Bay Packers on the final play, kicker Paul Edinger missed his only attempt from 33 yards. Koren Robinson and Troy Williamson split kickoff returns duties after Robinson left because of a concussion. Together, they combined for an average of 19.4 yards on seven returns. Mewelde Moore had one punt return and a fair catch on another as Carolina only punted twice.

COACHING: D — The decision to have Fred Smoot cover Steve Smith is reason enough for this grade. The interesting thing was after making a few key halftime adjustments against Green Bay, the Vikings made few, if any in Carolina. Why they didn't abandon the Smoot-on-Smith plan and let Antoine Winfield also cover the receiver was hard to understand. Smoot also probably didn't receive enough safety help. Offensively, the Vikings often looked lost against Carolina's blitzing scheme.

Viking Update Top Stories