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Cam Newton scores 4 TDs in Panthers' rout of Vikings

All of the quarterback conversation in Minnesota has distracted fans from a deeper, uncomfortable truth about the Vikings: It's not all about the quarterback.

Leslie Frazier's defense has been a disappointment all season, and that was never more obvious than during Carolina's 35-10 dominating win in Minnesota on Sunday.

The Panthers' offense protected Cam Newton well, and he delivered with a nearly flawless game: 242 passing yards, three touchdown throws and a rushing score to boot. Minnesota's defense could not get off the field on third down. Panthers coach Ron Rivera coached like a man who could lose his job, smartly staying aggressive on fourth downs. Mike Shula's Carolina offense looked creative. Minnesota's offensive line, meanwhile, couldn't protect Matt Cassel at all.

Both teams only had one win going into the day, but they are far different. The Vikings are a mess at 1-4. The Panthers are talented enough to beat any team, and make a run into playoff contention. This result was not all about Cassel.

Here's what else we learned:

1. Adrian Peterson, playing after the unimaginable loss of his 2-year-old son, finished with 62 yards rushing on 10 carries. He couldn't find any running room early in the game, and the Vikings were down by three scores early in the second half.

2. Shula broke out a flea flicker tight end screen. It worked. The Panthers kept throwing while they had a big lead. That was good to see.

3. Cassel truly didn't play that poorly. He made a number of tough plays on third-and-long and received no protection. But he did sail two ugly passes, and they were both picked off. Newton had a similar throw that was dropped.

4. Carolina's defensive front seven is one of the most consistent groups in the NFL. They dominate every week.

5. Steve Smith had the most Steve Smith sequence possible. He got in a fight, threw a nasty decleater block, and then danced on the sideline. All in five minutes.

6. Josh Freeman seems very likely to start next Monday night versus the winless Giants after this result. But he can't save this team.

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