Vikings-Panthers Game Plan

The Vikings and Panthers each have a lot of motivation going into Sunday's game at the Metrodome, and there are a lot of great matchups to watch in this tilt.


The Vikings know Carolina will be upset coming into the Metrodome after a season-opening loss at Atlanta. But many Vikings will be looking for revenge, too, after last season's embarrassing defeat against the Panthers in Carolina.

Offensively, the Vikings showed in their opener just how dedicated to the run they are going to be this season. Running back Chester Taylor carried the ball 31 times, although he only averaged 2.8 yards per touch against the Redskins.

The Vikings will be in for a tough going against a Panthers line that includes Julius Peppers, Maake Kemoeatu, Kris Jenkins and Mike Rucker. It should help the Vikings cause that Panthers linebacker Dan Morgan isn't expected to play.

Defensively, the Vikings played a solid game against the Redskins and should gain some confidence from that performance. The linebacker corps, thought to be a weakness entering the season, gave a solid accounting.

The defensive line got good pressure on Washington quarterback Mark Brunell but will be looking for its first sack of the season on Sunday. Keep in mind, the Tampa-2 style defense calls for the front four to get consistent pressure without much blitzing.

The Vikings aren't sure if they will have to contend with standout Carolina receiver Steve Smith (hamstring), but they are certain to face a tough test in trying to contain a Carolina run game led by DeShaun Foster.

INJURY IMPACT: The Vikings came out of the Washington game in very good shape. Only third-string running back Ciatrick Fason (shoulder) and backup safety Will Hunter (hamstring) were on the injury report and both are listed as probable. Cornerback Fred Smoot (ribs) and running back Mewelde Moore (knee) both played without a problem against Washington, and head coach Brad Childress said Friday he expects the team to be at full strength.


The Panthers need to establish a running game early on, especially if they're without All-Pro receiver Steve Smith. That means plenty of DeShaun Foster. Look for DeAngelo Williams to get some carries too, because his speed will help out on the turf.

Defensively, the Panthers should be better against a more traditional type of running team like the Vikings. Last week the Panthers struggled with Atlanta's "stretch runs," but the Vikings don't do a lot of that.

INJURY IMPACT: The Panthers are likely to be without anywhere from three to five starters this weekend.

Left tackle Travelle Wharton is done for the season and middle linebacker Dan Morgan has already been ruled out for this week. Wide receiver Steve Smith is iffy at best this week. Also questionable is center Justin Hartwig (groin) and backup running back Nick Goings. Na'il Diggs has been upgraded to probable this week, but whether or not he'll start remains to be seen.

Jordan Gross will start at left tackle and Todd Fordham will probably start at right tackle as the Panthers look to bounce back from the loss of Wharton to a season-ending knee injury.

"After the game for a long time Jordan and I just talked and he was extremely excited about going back," quarterback Jake Delhomme said. "He said, ‘I'm fine.' He said it's tough in the middle of a game to switch, but give me a week's worth of work to get back into it, hey, that's what I did in college and two weeks. So that is the best thing for all of us — he's the one person who will have to change. I think that will be the easiest transition."

Look for Adam Seward to fill in for Dan Morgan, while Chris Draft may get the starting nod over Na'il Diggs.

Drew Carter started last week in place of Smith and led the Panthers in receptions.


  • Vikings LG Steve Hutchinson vs. Panthers RDT Kris Jenkins — In the old days this would have been a matchup of the league's best guard and the league's best defensive tackle. Unfortunately, after spending most of 2004 and 2005 on injured reserve, Jenkins isn't the same guy that earned All-Pro honors in 2002 and 2003. If you need any proof, just look at last week's game. Hutchinson isn't going to have much sympathy for Jenkins and you can expect the Vikings to run behind Hutchinson and center Matt Birk all day long.

  • Panthers LT Jordan Gross vs. Vikings DE Erasmus James — If the Panthers are to have any chance to win on the road, they need RB DeShaun Foster to have a big game. And that means they need better blocking. Foster had just 54 yards on 15 carries last week vs. Atlanta, but simply didn't have many holes to run through. Gross will move to left tackle to take over for Travelle Wharton, who is out for the season. James is a second-year player who had four sacks as a rookie for Minnesota.

  • Vikings RT vs. Panthers LE Julius Peppers — Marcus Johnson will get a very difficult early-season assignment, facing Panthers left end Julius Peppers. Peppers, who had 10.5 sacks last season, promises to play an inspired game after the Panthers' Week 1 loss to Atlanta. Johnson continues to develop and will need blocking help from tight end Jim Kleinsasser.

  • Viking CB Fred Smoot vs. Panthers WR Steve Smith — Assuming Steve Smith has recovered from a hamstring injury in time to play, he will no doubt be a target of Vikings cornerbacks Fred Smoot and Antoine Winfield. Smith lit up Smoot last season, catching 11 passes in a victory over the Vikings, and it's certain the Vikings corners want to get some revenge.

  • Vikigns LB Napoleon Harris vs. Panthers run game — Middle linebacker Napoleon Harris will be key to the Vikings' success or lack of it in stopping the Panthers' run game. Fullback Brad Hoover (6-0, 245 pounds) will be the lead blocker for DeShaun Foster and will be looking to blow up Harris or hoping the linebacker steps aside. Harris will have to hang in there if Foster is to be slowed on a regular basis.

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