Grading the game: Panthers

The Vikings had probably their worst performance of the season in a game in which they were trying to erase the memory of another Sunday night clunker. The bad performance could be spread throughout the team when grading the game.

PASSING OFFENSE: C — Brett Favre's struggles in the month of December date to the 2005 season, and they certainly seem to be an issue again. Favre hasn't had a passer rating better than 79.4 in three games this month, and Sunday he completed 17 of 27 passes for 224 yards with no touchdowns, an interception and a 73.7 rating in the Vikings' 26-7 loss at Carolina. Favre's performance was such that coach Brad Childress wanted to remove him in the third quarter with the Vikings leading 7-6. Favre refused Childress' request to come out, but the quarterback was definitely not happy that there was thought given to removing him. Favre had 24 touchdown passes and three interceptions when this month started. In December, he has four interceptions and three touchdown passes. It didn't help matters Sunday that WR Sidney Rice was playing despite the fact he had been sick and Percy Harvin was trying to return after battling migraine headaches for several days. Rice had four catches for 69 yards but committed a costly fumble after a long gain, and Harvin had one catch for 10 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus — The offensive line had its worst game Sunday, and that affected both the passing and the running game. Pro Bowl RB Adrian Peterson was held to 35 yards on 12 carries, marking the fifth consecutive game in which he had failed to rush for 100 yards. That's the longest such streak of Peterson's career. Peterson's total was his second lowest of the season. Overall, the Vikings generated only 41 yards on 14 carries, with Chester Taylor getting 6 yards on only two carries. The 41 yards were a season low for the Vikings, as were the 14 attempts. The Vikings ran the ball a total of three times in the second half. The previous week against Cincinnati, the Vikings ran the ball 37 times.

PASS DEFENSE: D — Carolina WR Steve Smith made it look easy going against CB Antoine Winfield and company. It appeared as if the foot injury that kept Winfield out for six games was still bothering him, as Smith finished with nine catches for 157 yards and a touchdown. Backup QB Matt Moore threw for 299 yards, completing 21 of 33 passes with three touchdowns and a 123.2 passer rating. The Vikings again had trouble with tackling — something that was an issue before the bye — and Winfield and SS Tyrell Johnson had particularly rough games. Winfield is an extremely sound tackler, but on this night he did not come close to resembling the Pro Bowl corner that people saw the previous week when he returned against Cincinnati.

RUSH DEFENSE: C — The Vikings allowed Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart to rush for 109 yards on 25 carries, ending Minnesota's 36-game streak of not giving up 100 yards rushing to an opponent. That was the longest streak in the NFL. The Panthers finished with 124 yards on 40 carries as a team, the second-highest total of the season against the Vikings. All of this happened despite the fact that Carolina's top running back, DeAngelo Williams, left the game after only six carries because of an ankle injury.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C — Not a very good night here either. Ryan Longwell missed a field-goal attempt for only the second time this season when his 39-yarder hit the right upright. Teams are still trying to keep the ball away from Harvin on kickoffs, and thus Carolina kicked short to WR Darius Reynaud and DT Jimmy Kennedy on two occasions. Harvin did get his hands on two kicks, averaging 15.5 yards. Reynaud averaged 14.5 yards on four punt returns, and Chris Kluwe averaged 46.6 yards gross and 38.1 on a season-high eight punts.

COACHING: C-minus — The Vikings laid an egg on "Sunday Night Football" for the second time in three weeks. A 30-17 loss at Arizona on Dec. 6 was a bit easier to handle because it came against the defending NFC champions. The Panthers entered Sunday with a 5-8 record, and it was expected Minnesota would be ready to make up for its performance against the Cardinals. Instead, the Vikings got outplayed again and did not look prepared. Some of that has to fall on coach Brad Childress, and the fact Childress wanted to remove Favre with the Vikings leading 7-6 also has to be considered an issue. All does not seem well with the Vikings. Childress is going to have to figure this thing out quickly, or a season with great expectations could end in disappointment.

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