I really have no idea what Mike Zimmer says in the Minnesota Vikings' locker room at halftime every week, but whatever it is, it's awfully effective.
After a fairly ugly first half of play that saw them generate just 34 yards of total offense, the Minnesota defense roared back in the second half against the Carolina Panthers, taking down the defending NFC Champions at Bank of America Stadium by a final score of 22-10.
The Panthers got on the board first, courtesy of a 48-yard field goal from Graham Gano to make the score 3-0. After a quick three-and-out by Minnesota's offense, the Panthers got on the board again, as Cam Newton ran one in from four yards out, and with five minutes left in the first quarter the Vikings already found themselves down 10-0. At that point in the game, the Panthers had outgained the Vikings by a margin of 115 yards to 3.
Minnesota got on the board late in the first quarter, thanks to their defense. With the Panthers lined up at their 2-yard line, Newton dropped back to pass, and got sacked in the end zone by Danielle Hunter for a safety. It was the first safety for the Vikings since Jared Allen registered one back in December of 2011, and it cut the Carolina lead to 10-2.
The Vikings cut further into the lead late in the second quarter, thanks to Marcus Sherels. Sherels fielded a punt from Andy Lee at the Minnesota 46-yard line, and found a wide open lane to shake through. He got some very nice blocks from his teammates down the field, and found himself in the end zone for a 54-yard punt return touchdown. The touchdown was the fourth of Sherels' career, extending his team record in that category. Naturally, Blair Walsh missed the extra point, making the score 10-8 in favor of the Panthers.
The Vikings got the ball coming out of the locker room at halftime, and immediately marched the ball down the field. Minnesota took the ball 79 yards in ten plays, capping things off with a great throw from Sam Bradford to Kyle Rudolph for a 15-yard score. Jerick McKinnon ran in for the two-point conversion, and just like that it was 16-10 in favor of Minnesota. Bradford went 6-for-6 for 54 yards and the touchdown on that drive after completing just 4-of-11 in the entire first half.
Minnesota got a second interception of Newton late in the third quarter, as Terence Newman recorded his 41st career interception and set the Vikings up at the Carolina 43-yard line. It looked like the Vikings had another touchdown, but Rudolph dropped one in the end zone that he really should have had. That meant the Vikings had to call on Blair Walsh for a 28-yard field goal attempt, and he put it through the uprights to give the Vikings a two-possession lead at 19-10.
The Vikings got some insurance late in the game, as Blair Walsh connected on a 31-yard field goal attempt to make the score 22-10 with just over five minutes left in the game. The Panthers tried to generate some offense late in the game, but Tom Johnson. . .yes, Tom Johnson. . .collected the Vikings' third interception as Newton just tossed one up as he was going down to the ground.
The story in this one, once again, was the Minnesota defense, which just harassed Newton all day and didn't allow the Panthers a point after the first quarter. . .no small feat, given that the Panthers had averaged 40.4 points per game in their previous seven home games. They sacked Newton eight times and racked up three interceptions. Everson Griffen led the way with three sacks, with one sack each going to Danielle Hunter, Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, Linval Joseph, and Brian Robison.
Offensively, it wasn't pretty for the Vikings, but it was better in the second half. Sam Bradford completed 18-of-28 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown. Jerick McKinnon had a rough go running the ball, picking up just 45 yards on 16 carries. The big game on the receiving end came from Rudolph, who hauled in seven catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.
For Carolina, Newton completed 21-of-35 passes for 262 yards, no touchdowns, and three interceptions. The Vikings' defense held Kelvin Benjamin without a reception on the day, which was huge. Carolina's leading receiver wound up being Greg Olsen, who had six grabs for 64 yards. Cameron Artis-Payne was the Panthers' leading rusher with 47 yards on 12 carries.
The Vikings move to 3-0 on the season, and will return to U.S. Bank Stadium next week to host the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. The Panthers fall to 1-2 and will travel to the Georgia Dome next weekend to face the Atlanta Falcons.
The Minnesota Vikings are still undefeated on the 2016 NFL season, as they knock off the Carolina Panthers by a final score of 22-10 at Bank of America Stadium. Thanks to everyone that got their coverage of today's game right here at The Daily Norseman!