The Vikings returned from their bye week with another quarterback and in better health, notably in the secondary. And at 1-3, they have a chance to build some momentum in their second true home game against the 1-3 Carolina Panthers. As the Vikings sort out their logjam at quarterback, here are three other things about Sunday’s matchup that you should know:
1. The Panthers ran 14 read-option plays against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, according to Vikings coach Leslie Frazier.
“We’ll spend quite a bit of time working on it and trying to prepare for it,” Frazier said. “It can be difficult to defend, but we’ll put the work in and hopefully do a good job.”
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton poses extra problems because he’s tough to contain as a runner. Newton has rushed for 1,570 yards in two-plus seasons and has scored 23 rushing touchdowns, which is the most by a quarterback in his first three seasons in league history. In fact, Newton’s 23 rushing touchdowns since 2011 and only six behind Adrian Peterson’s 29.
Of Newton’s 273 career carries, 111 of them (41 percent) have resulted in first downs.
“He’s obviously a great athlete,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “If you give him time, he’s going to make plays happen. We’ll have to get people around him.”
2. The Cardinals disrupted Newton and the Panthers offense by bringing constant pressure in a 22-6 victory on Sunday. The Cardinals sacked Newton seven times and forced him into four turnovers — three interceptions and one fumble.
The Vikings will try the same approach coming off their best effort of the season in terms of generating a consistent pass rush. The Vikings harassed Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger all game and finished with five sacks and nine quarterback hurries in their 34-27 victory in London.
The Panthers already have allowed 15 sacks, which is tied for sixth most in the NFL, so the Vikings should have an advantage in that matchup.
“The biggest key is stopping their running game,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “They’re running the ball really well, so we have to make sure we get after their run game. Stop them and make sure they have to pass the ball. Once we do that, then obviously we have to get to Cam and not allow him to run around on the field.”
3. Adrian Peterson leads the NFL with five rushing touchdowns and ranks second in rushing yards with 421, despite having an earlier bye than most teams.
Peterson’s 60-yard touchdown run against the Steelers was his 12th career TD run of 60-plus yards, extending his NFL record. Jim Brown held the record previously with nine touchdowns of 60-plus yards.
The Vikings running game looked much more in sync against the Steelers after a sluggish start to the season. Peterson finished with a season-high 140 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.
Carolina’s defense should provide a good barometer for the Vikings running game. The Panthers own the seventh-ranked run defense in the league and have allowed only one 100-yard rusher and three rushing touchdowns total in their past eight games, dating to last season.
The Panthers rank third in the NFL in total defense and scoring defense. Their two most recent opponents — the New York Giants and Cardinals — managed only 400 total yards combined.
“They’re playing some good football up front,” Frazier said. “They’re doing a very good job against the run. They’re rushing the quarterback very well. They’re a formidable foe in a lot of ways, so we’ll have our work cut out for us against their defensive line.”