Notebook: Bad beat leads to benching talk

The Vikings benched Bryant McKinnie, tried to bench Brett Favre and generally had a bad night in Carolina. See what the players were saying about it afterwards. Plus, the Vikings were dominated on both sides of the line and had a cornerback motivating Steve Smith again.

Last week's publishing of fan voting in the Pro Bowl showed the Vikings offensive line as favorites to dominate the NFC squad up front. On Sunday, they were simply dominated by the Panthers defense.

It got so bad that the Vikings benched left tackle Bryant McKinnie in favor of Artis Hicks and talked of doing the same with quarterback Brett Favre.

McKinnie was the leading the vote-getting among fans at offensive tackle and Favre was the second overall vote-getter. Their performances in Carolina in front of a national television audience could sway the other two-thirds of the voting equation – the coaches and players – to overturn their Pro Bowl popularity.

McKinnie gave up two sacks – one to rookie Everette Brown and one to veteran Julius Peppers – and he was flagged for a false start and holding.

"I'm just gonna say Wow! I had a OFF day! This was not a good nite 4 me," McKinnie wrote on his Twitter page. "There is something we gotta fix this week 2 put me n better position."

Vikings coach Brad Childress didn't give specifics on the McKinnie benching, but he referred to blocking deficiencies twice during his postgame news conference.

"It comes down to, in the end, being able to block and tackle and we didn't do a great job of either," Childress said.

The Vikings had fewer than 200 total net yards on offense before a 73-yard screen pass to Peterson in the final minutes, and Favre was sacked four times. Peppers was especially problematic with one sack and three quarterback hurries. He told NBC that the Panthers just had a good rush plan.

"Keeping the pocket congested so they don't have a lot of room to throw," he said of the Panthers' plan.

It got so bad that Favre said Childress wanted to pull his star quarterback in the third quarter. Favre seemed especially shocked that Childress would consider that while the Vikings had a 7-6 lead.

"Brad wanted to go in a different direction and I wanted to stay in the game," Favre said. "It's not 70-6, but we were up 7-6. I said, ‘I'm staying in the game. I'm playing.'"

Favre did stay in the game and ended up completing 17 of 27 passes for 224 yards, but he didn't throw any touchdown passes and threw one interception when the game was out of reach.

Childress acknowledged a sideline discussion with Favre but didn't get into specifics.

"We were just having a good conversation about where the game was heading at that point and time, and what we needed to do to head the other way," Childress said.

Favre said he wasn't sure if Childress wanted to bench him to protect him from injury or because he thought Tarvaris Jackson might have been more effective. But Favre admitted that he was "getting hit a little bit."

"Minnesota has got to get their offensive line problems figured out. … they've got to get (Adrian) Peterson going and they've got to protect (Favre) a lot better than they did tonight," NBC analyst Tony Dungy said after the game.

Adrian Peterson was held to 35 yards rushing on 12 carries.

"We didn't block very well," Childress said. "… It's really pretty simple."


The offensive line wasn't the only area where the Vikings struggled.

The Vikings' run defense bent too much for the second time game in a row. Last week, the Vikings surrendered 96 yards rushing to Cincinnati's Cedric Benson, much of that coming on a 42-yard run in the third quarter.

Pat Williams didn't play much in the fourth quarter this week and Carolina's Jonathan Stewart became the first player to rush for 100 yards or more against the Vikings defense in 37 games. Stewart saw more action Sunday night after starter DeAngelo Williams was sidelined with a first-quarter ankle injury.

Stewart finished with 109 yards on 25 carries and had three runs of 15 yards or more.


The Vikings run a different defense than they did in 2005 when Steve Smith abused former Vikings cornerback Fred Smoot for 201 yards and a touchdown. This time it was Smith taking it to Antoine Winfield and the Vikings' Tampa-2 defense.

The speedy receiver had nine catches for 157 yards and a touchdown. He had six catches for 54 yards in the first half, but he really came alive in the fourth quarter, when he had receptions for 45 and 42 yards, the second one for a touchdown. He also had an another touchdown nullified by a holding call on the Panthers.

Smith told NBC that a third-quarter jawing session with Vikings cornerback Benny Sapp motivated him.

"I just had to establish the rules and regulations of the game … which was 89 (Smith's jersey number)," the receiver said of his words with Sapp. "That's why he's going home."

Winfield had a big game against the Panthers last year – when he had a sack, forced fumble and returned the fumble recovery for a touchdown – but he said last week that Smith's 2005 performance was in the past.

"That was one game. Steve Smith made some plays down the field. I think they blew us out too that game," Winfield said. "That's ancient history. Right now we're a totally different team."

But they weren't that different on Sunday night.

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