Initial reaction after today’s game …
My first thought is the Vikings didn’t even need to return two blocked punts for touchdowns to beat a Panthers team that looked as awful if not more so than the awful Falcons team that lost here 38-10 back in Week 4.
The Panthers were the team with a playoff spot to play for despite a 3-7-1 record, but the Vikings, at 4-7, were just the better team in all three phases. Becoming only the fifth team in NFL history to return two blocked punts for touchdowns was just a nice add-on to a game the Vikings would have won either way.
Offensively, don’t underestimate the value of Teddy Bridgewater’s first completion of the game. It was an easy pitch-and-catch throw to Greg Jennings for seven yards on third-and-five. But, remember, seven days earlier, Teddy was throwing the ball maybe 10 feet over the head of receivers on relatively easy throws in the first half of the loss to the Packers. So Teddy B completing that simple pass kept the team’s opening drive alive, led to a touchdown pass and ultimately set the tone for a 120.7 passer rating for Bridgewater.
Defensively, the Vikings stood up to the Panthers on the first drive when Carolina clearly wanted to challenge the team’s weak run defense. Carolina called two runs to start the game, but the Vikings stuffed them for a gain of two yards and then got a sack from Sharrif Floyd. The Panthers punted and the Vikings took advantage of good field position to score.
The run defense, overall, struggled. But opening the game strong helped the offense and special teams take control of the game.
Also, midway through the third quarter, the defense bailed the slumbering offense out. After back-to-back three-and-outs by the offense, Carolina had moved to within 28-13 and was at the Vikings’ 42-yard line when Xavier Rhodes and Chad Greenway made excellent pass deflections in tight coverage on second-and-15 and third-and-15.
The Vikings still won’t make the playoffs. But they’re 5-7 with the woeful Jets visiting next week. So in a rebuilding year, the Vikings should be able to walk away from this season knowing they’re moving in the right direction with a record that will be better than last year’s 5-10-1 mark.
Vikings rookie linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd didn’t finish the Sunday’s game due to knee injuries in the 31-13 victory over the Panthers at TCF Bank Stadium.
Barr said his knee locked up at halftime, causing him to miss most of the second half. He aggravated his knee during the first half and left with 6:35 left in the third quarter following linebacker Chad Greenway’s deflection on third down.
The rookie was replaced by Gerald Hodges for the rest of the game. Barr said he initially injured his knee two weeks ago against the Bears.
“It’s been bugging me for a little bit, but it didn’t bug me as much as it did today,” Barr said. “…I was able to play through it for most of the first half, then it kind of locked up on me in the second half.”
Floyd didn’t start the game. Instead, rookie defensive tackle Shamar Stephen made his second consecutive start with Floyd dealing with a knee injury for a second straight week. He was still active, however, in the first half as a third down pass rusher.
On his first snap during the Panthers’ opening drive, Floyd recorded a sack on third down and proved to be disruptive when he entered on third downs up until halftime. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said Floyd pulled something in his leg, and the team cautiously shut him down for the day with a commanding 28-6 at the time.
“We attacked it like we did pretty much last game,” defensive tackle Tom Johnson said. “We knew Sharrif would probably get warmed up and see what he could do. We started him at third downs, and he came in and made an impact. We seen that the game was getting away, and he wasn’t feeling it, felt a little pull. Coach said to give him his time, sit down and just let the rest of us handle the game.”
The Vikings blocked two punts in the first half — both returned for touchdowns — and Teddy Bridgewater threw for two scores as Minnesota rolled to a 31-13 win over Carolina at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday.
Vikings defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd is out with a knee injury after playing in the first half against the Panthers at TCF Bank Stadium.
Floyd was limited almost exclusively on third down situations due to his pass rushing ability. He recorded a sack on his first snap, a third down play on the Panthers’ opening drive.
The Florida product missed last week’s game against the Packers with the same injury. He practiced only on Friday, as a limited participant, leading up to the Panthers game.
Rookie defensive tackle Shamar Stephen received his second consecutive start due to Floyd’s lingering knee injury over the last two weeks.
The Vikings blocked two punts returned for touchdowns in the first half against the Panthers at TCF Bank Stadium.
The first occurred with 7:09 left in the first quarter when wide receiver Adam Thielen blocked a punt attempt and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. It was the longest punt block returned for a touchdown. That was up until defensive end Everson Griffen scored in the same manner in the second quarter.
Linebacker Jasper Brinkley blocked Panthers punter Brad Nortman’s attempt, which Griffen scooped and scored from 43 yards out.
It’s the fourth time in NFL history a team has had multiple blocked punts return for touchdowns in a single game and the second time the Vikings have done so in franchise history.
Up until Thielen’s punt block returned for a touchdown, the Vikings had the NFL’s longest streak without accomplishing the feat 453 games ago in 1986.