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Vikings 24 Panthers 31, Vikings Mistakes Weigh Heavily in Loss to Carolina

Minnesota Vikings 24, Carolina Panthers 31

Game Recap

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.

Zimmer’s Response

“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.”

PFF Grades

According to Pro Football Focus, here are the Vikings top five-rated players of the game:

CB Xavier Rhodes89.4 overall grade

QB Case Keenum87.2 overall grade

CB Trae Waynes82.2 overall grade

DT Linval Joseph81.6 overall grade

DE Everson Griffen81.4 overall grade

Here are the Panthers top-five graded players:

DE Mario Addison92.5 overall grade

DE Julius Peppers83.4 overall grade

Kurt Coleman81.7 overall grade

RT Daryl Williams80.8 overall grade

LG Andrew Norwell79.2 overall grade

Up Next

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.

Game Summary


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 PeppersRiley 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 HillDanny IsidoraNick EastonJoe 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.

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.

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Sean Borman

Sean Borman is a writer with Minnesota roots that's still somehow an optimist. He was an intern with the Vikings during college and is an IT nerd by day. You can find Sean on the golf course and on Twitter @SeanBormanNFL.

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2 years ago

Tough loss after coming back. A game of missed opportunities, the offense… plagued by drops and injured offensive lineman. On defense it was penalties and big plays.
The silver lining… I didn’t think we’d win 15 straight. Much rather lose now than in January. It does put us in a spot that we might have win out to get the 1st round bye. But it is what it is. Sometimes a loss is a good thing, if you learn from it and move on.
Thanks Sean! Good to have some game day coverage at my favorite blog.

2 years ago

turn the ball over like that and it’s hard to win. lots of mistakes, bad game, and we still were in it at the end

biggest worry is reiff, hopefully its just a normal sprain, not a high ankle sprain, and he can recover and play well again this season. we really need our o-line intact, been a big strength this season

if wentz is done, eagles not as big of a threat, even if they have first seed. don’t like to have it happen that way, but it is what it is, and we can still get home field throughout. would be a big advantage

if zimmer is gonna make a change at qb, this is his chance. not warranted, imo, keenum played well enough to continue starting, but zim loves teddy and with three regular season games left, this is the time, if he’s gonna do it. not saying he will or should, but not out of the question

overall, really don’t mind this loss all that much. we play again next week. lose in the playoffs and we are done. better to get this wake up call now, be humbled. wouldn’t even be surprised to see us lose another. as long as we regroup, try to get a bye and first seed, and then we’re healthy for the playoffs, don’t care what our regular season record is. need to peak in the playoffs, don’t want to use up all our fuel now

all that matters is a title

2 years ago

Injuries are more concerning than the loss. Need to get the OL healthy if they are going to make a deep run in the playoffs.

Speaks to the importance of having a strong OL – hoping they draft early for an OG or two.

Reply to  Sean Borman
2 years ago

I really like Quentin Nelson but I think he will be long gone by the time the Vikings pick, so I would target Pat Elflein’s teammate of a year ago – Billy Price out of Ohio State.

Reply to  Sean Borman
2 years ago

At this point, I would really like to see Billy Price be their no. 1 pick – would then look at DT, and another OG to be the next two selections. Really want to see them solidify both lines – makes everyone else’s job so much easier.

2 years ago

Today really highlights the difference a solid oline can make. Especiually when Reiff went out and they had a big resuffle the play really deteriorated. You have to think, given the remote chance of a oline staying together all year there should be more emphasis on have 7 or so starting quality olinemen. I’d have no qualms if they spent a 3rd round pick on the oline every year!

Hopefully they can regroup and win out from here. The Packers matchup is going to be crucial for home field advantage.

Reply to  Sean Borman
2 years ago

Drafting one offensive lineman in the third round does not convince me that Spielman has had his eyes especially opened to the idea of targeting the OL early in the draft. He’s built this line with veteran free agents (Berger, Reiff and Remmers), trade acquisitions (Easton and Sirles), practice squad pick-ups (Hill), college free agents (Collins) and all of two draft picks (Elflein and Isidora), the afore-mentioned third-rounder and a fifth-rounder. Many fans seem to think that Hill and Isidora could be starting next year, too, for all of the teeth-gnashing this past off-season about Spielman’s “failure” to use high draft picks on the OL.

Spielman may very well use a high draft pick on an offensive lineman next year, but not because last year’s debacle suddenly opened his eyes to the efficacy of that strategy. No, the reasons he might do so are fairly simple to see:

1. The 2018 draft is supposed to be deep in talented guards and centers.
2. Joe Berger is expected to retire after this year, leaving Easton, Isidora and Sirles as the only guards on the roster, and Easton the only back-up center.
3. There’s no other position on the team screaming out for the use of a high draft pick. Not QB (a rookie would take too long to develop for this team), not WR (more than six under contract for 2018), nor RB, TE or OT on offense. On defense, not DE, LB, CB (depth, yes, if Newman and Brock both walk, but we’re set at CB1-CB3) or Safety (Harris can challenge Sendejo). The only other position I could see us targeting early in the draft is DT if Tom Johnson retires and Shamar Stephen walks, but that would also be predicated on Jaleel Johnson being a disappointment, rather than just being buried on the depth chart.

If I were Spielman, I’d re-sign Stephen, Emmanuel Lamur and Tramaine Brock (not the first veteran acquisition to have a lousy first year with the team) and bring in lower draft picks and low-cost free agents to compete for most of the rest of the available spots. I’d target guards and defensive tackles in the first three rounds to raise the overall talent level on the OL and to bump up both the internal pass rush and run-stuffing on the DL.

2 years ago

“I would think that drafting OL early in the draft at least some of the time would be a smart strategy,”

Two words, Sean: Matt Kalil. Alright, alright, to be fair, Phil Loadholt worked out nicely, but OT isn’t the only position or unit where Spielman has both hit and missed in his upper round picks. In the defensive backfield he’s hit with Smith, Rhodes, Waynes and Alexander but missed on Chris Cook and Tyrell Johnson, and his third round defensive ends in successive drafts – Scott Crichton in 2014 and Danielle Hunter in 2015 – have had diametrically opposed careers. Fans just have to suck it up and realize that any GM will have both hits and misses with their drafts, including those in the upper rounds.

“especially considering the TJ Clemmings and Willie Beavers (both 4th-round picks) experiments didn’t work out.”

Yeah, but sixth-rounders John Sullivan and Brandon Fusco developed into Pro Bowl-quality starters before injuries took their toll.

“Or maybe since things are working out so well this year (with the players you mentioned) he’ll stick with the ‘patching it up’ strategy like he did this offseason.”

I think using all of the available sources of talent is the way to go. Copycat league that the NFL is, wasn’t it about a decade ago when everyone was supposed to follow the Patriots lead in building offensive lines with middle round picks? Spielman’s actually been less aggressive in free agency than I would have liked, at least compared to the years when we signed the likes of Antoine Winfield, Pat Williams, Corey Chavous, Ben Leber, Darren Sharper (the disgusting swine), Steve Hutchinson and Ryan Longwell. Signing Reiff, Remmers and Murray was a welcome and overdue return to the high-stakes free agent market, if you ask me.

“Have you ever thought about writing a guest post? You seem to know your way around the salary cap and building a roster.”

That’s flattering that you’d ask, Sean. It is something I have thought about. I’m no expert on the salary cap, but I think I have some idea of what I don’t know – the difference between a “Restricted Free Agent” (Nick Easton next year) and an “Exclusive Rights Free Agent” (Jeremiah Sirles, ditto), for example – and a willingness to root around the internet for some of the answers. I could never do the close play-by-play analysis that Austin, BJ and Arif Hasan (“I’m not worthy. I’m not worthy.”) do, but yeah, the ins and outs of building or maintaining a roster for the short- and long-term might be just up my alley. How would I go about this (I don’t do Twitter)?