When a team makes too many mistakes, it’s often difficult to overcome them, regardless of how good a team you might be. On Sunday in Charlotte against the Carolina Panthers, the Minnesota Vikings almost did enough to overcome their miscues, but in the end it was just too much.
The Vikings’ defense allowed more big plays than we’re accustomed to seeing, and the Panthers took advantage to hand Minnesota their first loss since Week 4, 31-24.
Carolina got on the board first in this one, as they took advantage of an interception by Case Keenum and cashed in after just three plays, as veteran running back Jonathan Stewart ran for a 60-yard touchdown on a 3rd-and-1 play in Carolina territory, giving the home team an early 7-0 lead.
Minnesota immediately answered back, as they marched 75 yards down the field and wrapped up the drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Keenum to Kyle Rudolph, the seventh of the season for the big tight end. Kai Forbath connected on the extra point, and just like that the game was tied at 7-7.
Carolina added points again on their second possession, aided largely by a pair of Minnesota personal fouls. One, a roughing the passer penalty on Anthony Barr, negated a third down stop, while a face mask call on Everson Griffen put Carolina into Minnesota territory. Stewart went in for his second score of the game, this one a 1-yard plunge, and the Panthers found themselves back on top again by a score of 14-7.
Minnesota got some points back in the second quarter, as Kai Forbath connected on a 30-yard field goal to make it 14-10. After what appeared to be a touchdown pass from Keenum to Adam Thielen was overturned on replay, Forbath connected from 22 to make it 14-13 going into the locker room at the half.
The Panthers came out of the locker room and put together a very impressive drive to start the second half. After converting several big third downs, Cam Newton got his first touchdown pass of the day, finding Devin Funchess for an 18-yard score. Gano added the extra point, and the Panthers found themselves back up by 8 at 21-13 midway through the third.
On the Vikings’ first offensive play of the half, Keenum was sacked by Mario Addison, and fumbled the ball away to the Panthers. Minnesota limited the damage, however, forcing the Panthers to settle for a 41-yard field goal from Gano to make it 24-13.
The Vikings made a couple of advances into Carolina territory in the second half,but couldn’t convert them into points. One came on a punt return by Marcus Sherels that set the Vikings up at the Carolina 30, but resulted in a missed field goal by Kai Forbath. Another drive was ended by Keenum’s second interception of the day, as James Bradberry picked him off at the Carolina 25 to thwart another strong scoring opportunity. They broke through, however, just before the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter, as Keenum found Thielen for a big 52-yard touchdown. Keenum then connected with Blake Bell on the two-point conversion, and the Vikings were back within three at 24-21.
Minnesota then got a huge play, as a pass from Newton intended for Christian McCaffrey bounds off of his hands and into the hands of Andrew Sendejo. Sendejo took the ball all the way to the Carolina 6-yard line, setting up a first-and-goal. Unfortunately for the Vikings, they had to settle for a field goal, as Forbath connected from 27 yards out to tie the game at 24-24.
On the ensuing Carolina possession, Newton atoned for the interception, busting a huge 62-yard run to the Minnesota 8-yard line just before the two-minute warning. On third-and-goal, it was Stewart once again, as he went into the end zone from a yard out to give Carolina the lead back at 31-24. The Vikings had one last shot with 1:47 left on the clock and one timeout, but Keenum was sacked for the sixth time on the afternoon, and the Vikings’ desperation fourth down attempt fell short. Carolina ran out the clock, and the Vikings found themselves in the loss column for the first time since Week 4.
Keenum had one of his less impressive games in recent memory, to say the least. He completed 27-of-44 passes for 280 yards and had two scoring passes, but also threw two interceptions. He didn’t get much help from the run game, as the Vikings rushed for just 15 yards in the second half and 100 yards for the game. Jerick McKinnon had 7 carries for 46 yards, while Latavius Murray had just 14 yards on nine carries. Keenum also contributed 40 yards on the ground.
Thielen once again led the Vikings in receiving, as he had six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. Stefon Diggs also had six receptions, gaining 64 yards. Kyle Rudolph had three receptions for 41 yards and a touchdown, while Laquon Treadwell had a pair of catches for 23 yards. Jarius Wright had two grabs for 13 yards, and McKinnon had nine yards on a pair of receptions.
The Vikings fall to 10-3 on the season, and will finally return to U.S. Bank Stadium next Sunday to take on the Cincinnati Bengals (5-8). The Panthers move their record to 9-4, and they will host the Green Bay Packers next Sunday.
The Minnesota Vikings have their eight-game winning streak snapped, as they fall to the Carolina Panthers by a final score of 31-24. Thank you to everyone that got their coverage of this week’s game right here at The Daily Norseman!