Minnesota Vikings 24, Carolina Panthers 31
The Vikings came up short in their attempt to win nine games in a row Sunday. The last game of a three-game road trip resulted in Minnesota’s third loss of the season, and prevented the 10-3 Vikings from clinching the playoffs and capturing the NFC North division crown.
Offensively the Vikings failed to establish the rushing attack early. Jerick McKinnon led the team with 46 yards on seven carries (6.6 YPC) and Latavius Murray managed only 14 yards on nine carries (1.6 YPC). Quarterback Case Keenum added 40 yards on five rushes.
The Vikings had some success through the air but were doomed with turnovers at inopportune times. Keenum finished the day 27 of 44 (61%) passing for 280 with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Vikings receiver Adam Thielen led Minnesota with six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown, but he also had two key drops in the end zone before the half. Instead of taking the lead at halftime the Vikings settled for a Kai Forbath field goal.
Stefon Diggs had six catches for 64 yards but had a ball bounce off his hands late in the game which resulted in a Carolina interception.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph had three catches for 42 yards with a touchdown but he also had issues catching the ball. Two dropped passes in the first half would have resulted in big plays for the offense. The Vikings top three pass catchers all had crucial drops throughout the game.
The Vikings defense was hurt by big plays, specifically two long runs. Carolina’s first touchdown was a 60-yard blast by Jonathan Stewart to the right of the center on third-and-one. Later in the game Cam Newton sealed the win with a 62-yard scamper up the middle of the field.
Defensive linemen Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen each collected a sack but Zimmer’s top-2 defensive unit couldn’t bounce back after giving up the long runs. Carolina rode 216 rushing yards en route to their fifth victory in six games.
Carolina, now 9-4, made those big plays on offense count. The Panthers scored 31 points on a defense that had allowed an average of 17 points against before Sunday’s contest.
Newton ran for 70 yards on 11 carries. He completed 13 of 25 passes for 137 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Running back Jonathan Stewart had 103 yards with three rushing touchdowns. Stewart was the first player to rush for over 100 yards against the Vikings defense all season.
Devin Funchess led the Panthers in receiving with three catches for 59 yards and a touchdown.
“Credit Carolina with the win today… We didn’t play good enough to win,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer continued, “It’s hard to win games when you don’t play good enough.”
The Vikings uncharacteristically kicked themselves in the foot multiple times. Five drops plagued Vikings pass-catchers, six sacks were given up by the offensive line, three turnovers were caused by quarterback Keenum, and multiple big plays were allowed by the defense.
“We turned the ball over three times, we gave up 200 yards rushing… those are unlike us,” Zimmer said.
In addition to the sobering defeat, the Vikings are hoping injuries don’t make today’s loss even more painful. Linebacker Emmanuel Lamur and tight end Kyle Rudolph were seen in walking boots after the game. Left tackle Riley Reiff was carted off the field in the third quarter with an ankle injury. Zimmer did not know the extent of Reiff’s injury after the game but it was reported that he left in a walking boot as well.
If the injuries turn out to be minor, all is not lost for the Vikings.
“It was just a game… no one is going home, Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes told reporters from the locker room. “We just need to go home and correct the mistakes.”
According to Pro Football Focus, here are the Vikings top five-rated players of the game:
Here are the Panthers top-five graded players:
The Vikings will look to rebound at US Bank Stadium next week as they take on the Cincinnati Bengals. Minnesota will attempt to clinch a playoff berth as well as win the NFC North division crown in front of their home fans. The Vikings take on Cincinnati in Minneapolis next Sunday at noon. The Bengals lost 33 to 7 at home Sunday to the Chicago Bears.
The Vikings opened the game with two straight runs. The offense extended the drive on a 12-yard pass in the middle of the field from Case Keenum to Adam Thielen on 3rd-and-11. On 2nd-and-14 Keenum was intercepted (his 6th of the season) by Daryl Worley. Keenum was hit hard on the attempt and under-threw Thielen.
Carolina took over at their 31-yard line. The Panthers had two consecutive runs to open the drive. On 3rd-and-1, running back Jonathan Stewart busted through a huge hole on the right side of line and sprinted for a 60-yard touchdown run on the Panthers first offensive series of the game. He went untouched on the run. It was the longest play allowed by the Vikings defense all season. Extra point by Graham Gano good.
Vikings 0, Panthers 7
The Vikings second offensive series opened with a short pass to receiver Stefon Diggs. On second down Keenum escaped from Luke Kuechly and Wes Horton to avoid a sack and gain a yard on a nerve-wracking play for the Vikings offense. Keenum then scrambled to his left for a first down on 3rd-and-4. After a short run by Latavius Murray, Keenum completed a 15-yard pass to Thielen followed by another first down reception by Diggs.
Jerick McKinnon then joined the action. He ran around Carolina’s blitz for a gain of nine and then ran up the middle for six yards the next play. Keenum had tons of time to throw the ball following a play action on 1st-and-10 at Carolina’s 20. He threw it away with nobody open. The next play Keenum hit tight end Kyle Rudolph for an 18-yard touchdown. Great catch by Rudolph between two or three Panther defenders. Extra point by Kai Forbath good.
Vikings 7, Panthers 7
Cam Newton scrambled for a couple of yards on 1st down before finding Brenton Bersin for an amazing 15-yard catch. Andrew Sendejo took out the receivers’ legs while his body did a back-flip. Bersin landed on his hand but came away from the play unscathed.
The Panthers got fortunate when consecutive 15-yard face-mask penalties were called on Anthony Barr and Everson Griffen. Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey followed with three straight carries and earned a first down. Newton then hit Devin Funchess for an impressive back-shoulder catch on the sidelines. The play was good for 25 yards.
The Panthers had 123 offensive yards in the first quarter, a season high.
Carolina’s red zone visit ended with a 1-yard touchdown run to Stewart on 3rd-and-GOAL, his second touchdown on the ground. Extra point good.
Vikings 7, Panthers 14
The Vikings first drive of the second quarter began with a first down which was caused by a pass interference call on Diggs. Keenum then hit Rudolph down the field in stride only to have the tight end drop his first pass of the season. The play would have resulted in at least 20 yards. Keenum then missed on a pass intended for Laquon Treadwell on 3rd-and-9. Ryan Quigley punted.
The Panthers went three-and-out on the following drive after receiver Damiere Bird ran a route just short of the first down marker on third down. He was tackled by Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes.
Marcus Sherels bobbled the punt by Panthers punter Michael Palardy but recovered his drop. The Vikings began the drive from their own 10-yard line. The offense went three-and-out after Captain Munnerlyn broke up a deep pass intended for Diggs on third and short.
Carolina began their next drive on their own 36 after a 45-yard punt by Quigley. Greg Olsen appeared to injure his foot on the first play. On the second play Xavier Rhodes had a very nice pass breakup on a pass intended for Funchess. On third down the Vikings forced a pass to the flats which came up short of a first down. It was the second straight three-and-out by the Vikings defense. A punt by Carolina ensued.
The Vikings offense, down by 7, began the drive with a 7-yard burst by McKinnon .The following play Keenum ducked under Munnerlyn, avoided a sack, and dumped it to Rudolph which resulted in a first down. It was another amazing escape by Keenum, who found Rudolph on the following play for another first down. McKinnon then used his cut-back ability to bounce outside of Carolina defenders and find the open field on back-to-back first down runs. Following a dropped screen by McKinnon, he caught a short reception. The Vikings faced 3rd-and-9. Keenum found Thielen for a gain of six yards. Forbath’s attempt from 30-yards was good.
Vikings 10, Panthers 14
Greg Olsen rejoined the Panthers offense on the next drive. Stewart opened up the series with a clean 9-yard run. He followed with a quick run up the middle for four yards and a first down. After Stewart was stuffed on first down the Vikings defense shut down an option beautifully and brought down Newton for a one-yard loss. Newton flung a third down pass incomplete deep down the field. Carolina punted.
The Vikings began the next drive on their 32. After a first-down incompletion, a 1-yard run by McKinnon on second down followed. Keenum found Treadwell to convert on third down. Keenum was sacked on first down (after the call on the field was reversed) for a loss of five yards. The following play Keenum scrambled for 14 yards. On 3rd-and-1 Keenum hit Treadwell on a slant route before head coach Mike Zimmer called a timeout.
Keenum scrambled for a first down on the following play. The Vikings then took a shot to Treadwell in the end zone on the next play and drew a pass interference call. From the 2-yard line Thielen dropped a touchdown catch on a roll-out by Keenum to the right. The ball hit him in the chest and bounced to the ground. Rudolph dropped a jump ball on the next play. Thielen then caught a pass in the back of the end zone. It should have been a touchdown on third-and-GOAL, but he bobbled the catch slightly which caused he referees to overrule the call on the field. Forbath drilled a 22-yard field goal on the next play.
Vikings 13, Panthers 14
QB Case Keenum: 13 of 23 for 121 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
RB Jerick McKinnon: 7 rushes for 46 yards.
TE Kyle Rudolph: 3 catches for 41 yards with one touchdown.
QB Cam Newton: 6 for 11 for 57 yards.
RB Jonathan Stewart: 8 rushes for 87 yards with 2 touchdowns.
WR Devin Funchess: 1 catch for 22 yards.
The Panthers first drive of the second half began with a couple big third-down conversions. McCaffrey escaped a tackle by Harrison Smith to earn a first down early. The next set of downs ended with a first-down catch by Bird on third-and-long. The pass was nearly intercepted by Vikings number one corner Rhodes. On 2nd-and-17 Newton completed a 19-yard pass to Funchess, who was shadowed by Vikings number two corner Waynes. Newton then found Funchess again on an 18-yard touchdown pass. Newton threw off his back foot but found the receiver wide open between defenders. Vikings middle linebacker Eric Kendricks was caught peaking towards the backfield on the play. Extra point good.
Vikings 13, Panthers 21
Minnesota’s opening drive of the second half ended immediately after a fumble by Keenum, which was confirmed by the umpires via replay. The ball was jarred loose on a strip sack by Panthers defensive end Mario Addison.
The Panthers offense took over in Vikings territory. The offense went three-and-out but got three points after a 41-yard field goal attempt by Gano was good.
Vikings 13, Panthers 24
Vikings fullback C.J. Ham had a nice seven-yard catch to open Minnesota’s next drive. Jarius Wright caught a pass on third-and-short for the first down. Keenum then hit Diggs for a nine-yard completion but threw behind Thielen on the next play to cause an incompletion. On 3rd-and-1 Murray busted loose for a 15-yard gain. On the next third-down, Keenum was sacked by Julius Peppers. Riley Reiff was injured on the play. The Vikings punted and Quigley stuffed one inside the 3-yard line.
The Panthers were backed up on the goal line and tried to get some breathing room with two straight runs up the middle. They went nowhere. The Panthers punted.
Marcus Sherels had a nice 29-yard punt return to set up the Vikings offense at the Panthers’ 30-yard line. After the injury to Reiff the Vikings offensive line shifted to Rashod Hill, Danny Isidora, Nick Easton, Joe Berger, and Jeremiah Sirles. The Vikings first play was a run to Murray for a loss of three yards.
Keenum was forced out-of-bounds by Kuechly on a designed QB run on 3rd-and-13. Forbath then missed badly on a 54-yard field goal attempt. It was wide left with a vengeance.
The Panthers took over. Newton completed a first down pass to the virtually unknown Bird on second down for his fourth reception of the game. On the next play Newton came up hobbling after a clear dive on sidelines in a weak attempt to draw a personal foul penalty on Vikings linebacker Kendricks. The Panthers punted.
The Vikings, starting at their 13 yard-line, gathered momentum with consecutive completions to Thielen and Diggs. Diggs then broke a tackle after a completion for a 22-yard gain on first down. Keenum then hit Wright for a gain of five. On third-and-one Keenum hit Thielen for a gain of 15. Thielen hurt his knee on the play but would return to the game later. Keenum continued with his sixth consecutive completion on a quick strike to Floyd, but was intercepted on the next play. Diggs jumped for a high pass, the ball went off his hands and it was grabbed by the Carolina defender. Interception number two for Keenum. That was drop number four for Vikings receivers on the day.
On the Panthers next drive, Newton missed an open running back sprinting out of the backfield on third-and-2. Carolina went three-and-out on a crucial drive. They punted.
Down 11 with under 8 minutes to go, momentum shifted. Keenum hit Adam Thielen for a huge 52-yard touchdown with just under 6 minutes left in the game. Keenum then hit tight end Blake Bell for the 2-point conversion and all of a sudden the lead was cut to three.
Vikings 21, Panthers 24
Carolina opened their next drive on the 25. Newton missed Stewart on first down after the throw skipped at his feet in the flat. McCaffrey gained five on second down. On third-and-five Newton overthrew McCaffrey and the ball went off his hands and was picked off by Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo. The Vikings safety returned the pick to the 6-yard line of Carolina.
After a run for zero yards on first down by Murray, Keenum threw behind an open Diggs in the end zone, which caused a pass defended by James Newberry. Keenum was sacked for the fifth time on 3rd-and-GOAL. Kai Forbath then hit a 27-yard field goal.
Vikings 24, Panthers 24
The biggest play of the game: Newton escaped the Vikings defense with a 62-yard scramble to put Carolina inside the Vikings 10-yard line. Newton shook Sendejo who missed the tackle and allowed the quarterback to break free. After the two-minute warning the Panthers ran twice up the middle, forcing the Vikings to use two timeouts. Carolina then put up six points on third-and-GOAL with a 1-yard touchdown by Stewart. His third rushing touchdown of the game. Extra point good.
Vikings 24, Panthers 31
With 1:47 left in the fourth quarter the Vikings had a chance to tie the game. With one timeout at their disposal the Vikings quickly gave up a sack. A blitz on second down forced an incompletion. On third-and-16 Treadwell dropped a pass by Keenum which would have gained at least eight yards. The fourth-and-16 heave by Keenum bounced around receivers and defenders then fell to the ground. The game was all but over.
Carolina took over and knelt out the clock.
FINAL: Vikings 24, Panthers 31
We took a look at the pregame injury report with inactive players before the game.
RT Mike Remmers (back) did not play.
TE David Morgan (concussion) did not play.
C Pat Elflein (shoulder) was inactive after being limited in practice this week.
LB Emmanuel Lamur (foot) left the game in the third quarter and was questionable to return. He left Carolina in a walking boot.
CB Xavier Rhodes (hip/leg) left the game in the third quarter but returned to the game shortly thereafter.
LT Riley Reiff (leg) was later carted off the field after he was bent back awkwardly during a play. He left the stadium in a walking boot.
TE Kyle Rudolph (foot) had his foot taped up during the game but did not miss any time. Rudolph was also seen in a walking boot following the game.