For the third time this season, the Vikings spotted an opponent at least a one-touchdown lead. And for the third time the Vikings won thanks in large part to a dominant defense and the uncanny ability to make game-turning plays. Make no mistake: even through all the injuries and problems with the offensive line/running game, this is a very good team. How good? We’ll get to that at the end. First, let’s recap Minnesota’s 22-10 victory over the Panthers with 5 GIFs (and a bunch of words, too).
ALLOW ME TO RETORT
Like I said, the Vikings have been spotting opponents early lead. This time, they gave Carolina 10 quick points and looked like they were in danger of getting their doors blown off. Instead? As has been the case in all three games this year, Minnesota stiffened after the initial wave and blasted past its opponent. The Vikings have given up 13 points (7 that weren’t in garbage time) beyond allowing those early leads this year. Like Samuel L. in Pulp Fiction, their retort game has been STRONG.
The shift started with a dominant defensive play by Danielle Hunter, with an assist to very good pass coverage, leading to a safety that trimmed Carolina’s lead to 10-2 at the end of the first quarter (which, frankly, sounds more like a Twins score than a Vikings score). That sequence felt like the beginning of a massive momentum switch that really never relented for the final three quarters.
SPECIAL TEAMS ACES
Marcus Sherels also got an assist on that safety by helping down a Jeff Locke punt deep in Carolina territory. Then Sherels gave Minnesota its first TD with a sweet punt return. Add in Cordarrelle Patterson looking like a special teams whiz and it’s clear the special teams played a starring role in this victory (another missed extra point from Blair Walsh notwithstanding).
But the biggest story (again) was the defense. The Vikings went up against the reigning MVP from a 15-1 team and sacked Cam Newton eight times while picking him off three times. Carolina looked miserable for three-fourths of the game, one week after Green Bay looked the same. Guys, I don’t know how to say this but if the question was whether the Vikings could go from a very good to an elite defense this year, the question has been answered with an emphatic, “yes.”
My thought going into the Vikings’ game at Carolina was this: with the Cardinals and Seahawks struggling early this year, a Minnesota victory over the Panthers one week after defeating (and outplaying) Green Bay would establish the Vikings as the team to beat in the NFC. I can’t back off of that now, nor should I. Three weeks into the season, Minnesota has established itself as the new team to beat in the conference. That is subject to change, and the distinction carries far more weight in January. But after another dominant game from the defense and a very good second half from Sam Bradford, this is where we are.