Our snapshot of the first half as the Panthers lead the Vikings 14-3 at Mall of America Field in a battle of teams not wanting to be 1-4. If Vikings coach Leslie Frazier loses, he'll be 1-4 for the second time in three years. If Panthers coach Ron Rivera loses, he'll be 1-4 for the third time in his three years in Carolinia. ...
Score: Panthers 14-3.
The Good: Chad Greenway shot through a gap and stoned fullback Mike Tolbert for no gain on third-and-1 from the Vikings' 2-yard line. But the Panthers scored on the next play. Earlier in that first-quarter drive, Greenway sacked Cam Newton on a blitz on third-and-nine. But that, too, went for naught as Chris Cook was called for holding Steve Smith. ... After the Vikings' third consecutive poor drive to open the game, punter Jeff Locke boomed a 60-yard punt with a net of 51, flipping the field position to the Carolina 18-yard line. ... Adrian Peterson took a swing pass and blasted out eight yards on third-and-eight from the Carolina 21-yard line. He then got nine more on a run on the next play. He fumbled, but Jarius Wright was there to recover for the Vikings. Unfortunately for the Vikings, second-and-one at the Carolina 4 led to nothing but a 23-yard field goal.
The Bad: The Vikings allowed the Panthers to convert twice on fourth-and-1 in their opening drive, including a 2-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith. The drive covered 62 yards in 15 plays. ... Vikings linebacker Desmond Bishop is out for the rest of the game because of a knee injury. ... Having to settle for a field goal in the closing seconds despite having second-and-1 at the Carolina 4-yard line. Matt Cassel threw over the middle for no gain to Greg Jennings and then threw to Kyle Rudolph, who caught the ball just out of bounds in the back of the end zone.
The Ugly: Cook, in his first game back from a groin injury, ruined a great stop on Carolina's first third-play. A Greenway sack on third-and-nine from the Carolina 39 was negated by Cook's hold on Smith. The Panthers went on to score a touchdown on the drive and take a 7-0 lead. On Carolina's third possession, Cook gave up an 11-yard completion on third-and-10 when he played too far off of Brandon LaFell on a crossing route. That third-down conversion also led to a touchdown and a 14-0 Panthers lead. ... Matt Cassel's first pass that went farther than 20 yards downfield was badly overthrown past Greg Jennings and intercepted by safety Mike Mitchell. The pick led to a Carolina touchdown. .. Tolbert took a simple shovel pass from Newton on second-and-goal from the 10-yard line. From there, the bowling-ball-shaped fullback busted through five wanna-be tacklers en route to the end zone for a 14-0 lead with 3:43 left in the half. Hard to tell what was worse, that play or the fact that nose tackle Letroy Guion was flagged 15 yards for taunting after it was over.
What we've learned: So far, it won't be too hard fitting Josh Freeman in at quarterback once he's ready. Cassel has completed 15 of 19 passes, but has only 110 yards and three points despite having second-and-1 at the Carolina 4. Cassel also has an ugly overthrow that was picked and led to Carolina's first touchdown. Peterson has only 28 yards on seven carries.