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Vikings dominate on defense to upset Cam, Panthers

The Panthers already have more regular season losses in 2016 than they did all of last season after falling to the Vikings 22-10 on Sunday. Here's what we learned:

  1. The Vikings' defense continues to shake up the top of the NFC power teams. One week after serving up Aaron Rodgers' worst game in years, Minnesota absolutely destroyed Cam Newton and the Panthers' offense in the second half.

Trailing 10-0 late in the first quarter, Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter threw Michael Oher to the turf before tossing Newton down for a safety. The play started a pass-rushing deluge for Minnesota, the team finishing with eight sacks and 12 QB hits.

  1. After a fast start by Newton, the Panthers had no answers for Minnesota's depth and creativity up front. Everson Griffen led the way with three sacks and three tackles for loss, but Anthony Barr, Harrison Smith and especially coach Mike Zimmer's varied looks deserve credit for continually scrambling Carolina's offensive circuitry. This was the most impressive effort we've seen by any defense all season. Newton came into the game as the best QB in football and wound up getting picked off three times. Newton missed one play after getting shaken up in the third quarter with an ankle injury but appeared fine after that.
  1. After two dominant weeks to start the season, Kelvin Benjamin's only target of the game came with a few minutes remaining. It should have resulted in an interception after a miscommunication with Newton. The return of Xavier Rhodes was a big factor as Minnesota's physical cornerbacks allowed zero catches to Benjamin and fellow starting receiver Devin Funchess.

"We just knew where Benjamin was the whole time. Funchess, we weren't worried about him," former Panther and current Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said after the game according to the Associated Press. "Me personally, I think No. 17 (Funchess) is not that good."

  1. The Vikings can't run the ball (58 rushing yards) and can't protect Sam Bradford, yet they keep winning. Bradford deserves an assist in the victory for his second-half performance. After the Vikings' offense was held to fewer first half yards (34) than any Vikings team since 2005, Bradford played mistake-free on three sharp scoring drives after halftime. His intermediate throws to Kyle Rudolph (7 catches for 70 yards and a score) led the way.
  1. Cameron Artis-Payne started at running back for the Panthers and got most of the carries with 47 yards on 12 carries. The team misses Jonathan Stewart but that didn't feel like the decisive factor here. They did abandon the run faster than we'd normally expect.
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