Counting down the Panthers who mattered most in clutch win over Vikings

Monday, 11 Dec, 2017

The Panthers' season was in the balance. "When you're playing a team like this, as far as how they disguise, how fast they play, how they rally to the football, you just have to make sure that you're on your "A" game and firing on all cylinders". That being said, the Vikings are just a win away at Carolina on Sunday from sweeping the NFC South. Without polished route-running chops, the former MI star caught just 54 passes for 844 yards and nine touchdowns in his first two seasons. Instead, the Vikings lost and their two rival teams still in contention in the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers won in Week 14 to keep the divisional race alive for at least another week.

Because New Orleans has the tiebreaker after sweeping Carolina, the Saints essentially have a one-game lead. The Vikings were the better team and showed they can win high-scoring games or they can win low-scoring games on the road in a hard environment. He has had a passer rating of below 60 in four of 12 games this season, and we know the Vikings defense has a way of getting a quarterback off his game.

The Vikings were already dinged up on the offensive line.

The Vikings failed to pick up a first down after Carolina's go-ahead score. Carolina's defense forced Minnesota and Keenum into bad decisions. Vikings punt Ryan Quigley had a nice punt covered down at the two yard line, and Marcus Sherels had a nice 29-return to give the Vikings good field position, but he also fumbled one that nearly went to the opposition. As the No. 1 receiver on a division-leading team, Thielen deserves to be selected to the Pro Bowl. He finished the afternoon with 103 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries.

"We've got to play better at the start of the game, and I put a lot of that on me", Thielen told WCCO. The biggest difference in this game was the play of the two offensive lines. Mobile, play-making QB. Another hostile environment.

"They exploited some mismatches we had a year ago and got after myself a lot", Newton said. It has also been the second best team against the run this season, allowing 77 yards per game.

The Vikings' decision to abandon the run game likely did not help matters.

Dropped passes-sometimes they can be epidemic. Devin Funchess is the team's top wide receiver and he could draw coverage from Xavier Rhodes.

Dak Prescott threw three touchdown passes and the desperate Dallas Cowboys beat NY 30-10 Sunday to spoil Steve Spagnuolo's debut as interim coach and the return of quarterback Eli Manning to the Giants' starting lineup. On third-and-7 in the red zone against one of the best defenses in the league, Newton stayed in the pocket and waited.

Even with three of their final four games coming at home, Carolina doesn't have the easiest of stretches ahead. As such, it was interesting from the jump to see which version of the Vikings and the Panthers would show up on Sunday. It didn't take Carolina to come up with its second: James Bradberry grabbed a Keenum pass that bounced off Stefon Diggs in the fourth quarter. Can't have turnovers on the road in this league and expect to win.