With Longwell's three field goals and a clutch touchdown pass on a fake -- plus a defense that forced nine punts -- the Vikings showed again that they don't need a flashy, high-flying offense to win.
"Ten years in, I finally got one," said Longwell, grinning broadly and gladly answering dozens of questions in the locker room. He also made field goals from 22 and 27 yards.
The Vikings were stuck, under constant pressure by Julius Peppers and starving for a big break. Gamble caught the punt, ran left and was swarmed, but stayed with the plan and threw a ball that bounced like a grounder, with Richard Marshall playing the part of shortstop. Will Hunter forced Marshall to fumble.
"We have an option to abort, but I'm not going to put that on him," Fox said. "That's my decision to take that risk."
Added Gamble: "I should've kept the ball."
Jason Glenn recovered for Minnesota at the 21-yard line, giving the Vikings their chance to show off their sneakiness four plays later.
Peppers did his part with three of his team's five sacks, plus a blocked 51-yard field goal. Keyshawn Johnson had five receptions for 106 yards, but Carolina has only 19 points through two games.
"It's disappointing, but nobody feels sorry for us," quarterback Jake Delhomme said. "You have to go back to work and try to get better."
Delhomme has clearly missed Smith. Carolina converted only three of 14 third downs, and if the ball wasn't dropped, it was thrown off-target by Delhomme when a completion was badly needed.
"It's going to hurt even more watching tomorrow, but you have to stick together and keep fighting," said Delhomme, who went 17-for-33 for 181 yards and no turnovers.
Carolina finally put something together late in the half, an 85-yard march fueled by two Minnesota penalties and a difficult 40-yard catch and run by Johnson. Rookie DeAngelo Williams, who rushed 13 times for 74 yards, surged in from the 3 for his first NFL score and the first touchdown by the Panthers this year that gave them a 10-6 halftime lead.
The Vikings were unable to protect quarterback Brad Johnson in the second half or find any effective plays against a reputable Carolina defense missing linebacker Dan Morgan (concussion) and stinging from the 252 yards rushing given up last week in a 20-6 loss to Atlanta.
But Johnson threw a falling-down, 30-yard pass to Troy Williamson, who caught it one-handed, and Chester Taylor ripped off a 33-yard run on the final drive.
Taylor carried 24 times for 113 yards, and Williamson had six catches for 102 yards, all after halftime. Johnson went 19-for-31 for 243 yards and one interception, Minnesota's first turnover this year.
The offense installed by coach Brad Childress is low risk, and the Vikings don't have the standouts they once did. Style points don't count, though, and a team that Childress has been busy toughening up has accepted his leadership and shown a knack in the first two games for playing close and winning ugly.
"If the man wants to go for it on fourth down, if the man wants to practice in the rain," Johnson said, "that's what we're going to do. We're going to follow him."