The Minnesota offense got things started on the first drive of the game, thanks to great field position. Teddy Bridgewater found Kyle Rudolph for the first score of the day, a 4-yard reception that marked Rudolph's first score since the opening week of the regular season, and the Vikings took a 7-0 lead.
The Vikings then followed that up with a block of a Brad Nortman punt by Adam Thielen. Thielen wound up with the ball right next to him, and he alertly picked it up and ran 30 yards for a score to make it 14-0 in favor of the home team. The 30-yard score off of a blocked punt set a Vikings' team record.
It was a record that Thielen would hold for twelve minutes and thirty-five seconds of game time.
The Panthers got a field goal on their next possession to make it 14-3, and after the Vikings punted again, Nortman came on to punt it back. The Vikings left their regular defense on the field, as opposed to sending out the punt return team, and the result was another blocked punt. This one was knocked down by linebacker Jasper Brinkley, and Everson Griffen picked the ball up and returned it 43 yards for another score, making it 21-3 in favor of Minnesota.
Carolina got another field goal to make it 21-6, but they left too much time for Teddy Bridgewater and company at the end of the first half, as the rookie marched the team 80 yards in 11 plays, ending the drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings, and the home team went into the locker room with a 28-6 lead.
The Panthers struck first in the second half, as Cam Newton found rookie Philly Brown for a 32-yard touchdown pass on a 4th-and-4 play that saw him beat Josh Robinson. Mike Zimmer appeared to be unhappy with Harrison Smith on the play, as it appeared that Robinson was expecting help from Smith over the top. The touchdown made the score 28-13 in favor of Minnesota.
The next score would come in the fourth quarter, as Blair Walsh connected on a 39-yard field goal to make it a three-possession game, 31-13. Josh Robinson got an interception of Cam Newton, Robinson's third of the season, to snuff out a last-ditch Carolina drive, and that was all she wrote for this game.
Bridgewater had an efficient afternoon for the Vikings, completing 15-of-21 passes for 138 yards and two scores, giving him a quarterback rating of 120.7. Matt Asiata, who missed last week's game, led the Vikings in rushing with 14 carries for 52 yards. Greg Jennings led the Vikings in receiving with five receptions for 45 yards. For Carolina, Newton had a rough afternoon, completing 18-of-35 passes for 194 yards, a touchdown, and an interception while being sacked four times. Jonathan Stewart paced Carolina on the ground with 12 carries for 85 yards, while Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin each caught five balls for the Panthers.
The victory for Minnesota pushes their record to 5-7, matching their win total from 2013. They will conclude their three-game homestand next weekend when the New York Jets come to TCF Bank Stadium. The loss for Carolina drops them to 3-8-1. . .and, surprisingly, still not out of it in the NFC South.
The Minnesota Vikings ended their two-game losing streak with a 31-13 victory over the Carolina Panthers. Thank you for hanging out with us for this one, folks!
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