The second quarter of play saw the Minnesota Vikings with a 1st-and-10 from the 35-yard line against the Carolina Panthers, but the drive stalled out at that point after an incomplete pass from Teddy Bridgewater to Kyle Rudolph, Bridgewater's first incompletion of the day after a perfect first quarter. Jeff Locke came on for his first punt, and didn't get off a great punt, but it caused the Panthers to start at their own 20-yard line for their first possession of the second quarter.
The Panthers picked up a quick first down on the ensuing drive, and a pass from Cam Newton to Kelvin Benjamin got the Panthers near Minnesota territory at their own 45. The Panthers got as far as midfield, but the Vikings' defense held and forced another Carolina punt. And, as you'd expect, it was blocked AGAIN! This time, it was Jasper Brinkley getting in to block Brad Nortman's punt, and Everson Griffen scooped it up and rambled 43 yards for the Vikings' second special teams score of the day. The Blair Walsh extra point made it 21-3 in favor of the home team.
The block by Brinkley marked the first time the Vikings blocked two punts in a game since 11 December 1983 when they pulled it off against the Chicago Bears.
The Panthers started off at their own 20-yard line again after another touchback from Blair Walsh, and quickly blasted into Minnesota territory on a 30-yard pass from Newton to Benjamin on a 3rd-and-9 play. Carolina eventually pushed down into the Minnesota red zone on another third down run by Newton, but the Vikings' defense tightened up in the red zone and forced the Panthers to settle for another field goal from Graham Gano, this one a 35-yarder to make the score 21-6.
The Vikings started their next drive from the 20 after a touchback, and got a nice boost from Carolina cornerback Josh Norman for taunting Charles Johnson, a 15-yard penalty that gave the Vikings a first down. A run by Jarius Wright and another by Matt Asiata put the Vikings into Carolina territory at the two-minute warning. Bridgewater was stripped by Charles Johnson (the Carolina version) a couple of plays later, but Bridgewater found Charles Johnson (the Minnesota version) on a big third down completion to keep the drive going. And the Vikings got the conclusion to the drive that they wanted, as Bridgewater found Greg Jennings for a 17-yard touchdown pass with time winding down, with the Blair Walsh extra point giving the Vikings a 28-6 halftime lead.
You wouldn't think that a team that only had 8:17 of possession time in the first half would be in possession of a 22-point lead, but that's where the Vikings find themselves. They've been outgained by the Panthers 171-126, but the special teams plays have obviously been huge. Bridgewater has had a very good first half, completing 9-of-12 passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns. Matt Asiata is leading the Vikings in rushing with five carries for 25 yards, and Charles Johnson has 41 receiving yards on two catches to pace Minnesota in that category. Greg Jennings leads the team in receptions with three for 35 yards and a score, while Kyle Rudolph's lone catch went for a 4-yard touchdown.
For Carolina, Cam Newton has completed just 8-of-18 passes for 77 yards and has been sacked twice (once by Sharrif Floyd, once by Harrison Smith). Newton has carried the ball seven times for 34 yards, while Jonathan Steward leads the Panthers with 43 rushing yards at halftime. Rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin has caught three passes for 51 yards, while no other Panther has more than one catch.
It's 28-6 in favor of the home team as we move on to the third quarter, with Minnesota set to receive the second half kickoff. Can Minnesota keep the momentum going?