Vikings Rip Panthers 20-10

Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress’ midweek revelation to start journeyman quarterback Gus Frerotte against the Panthers has served him well; Frerotte now has a 4-0 career record when playing the Carolina Panthers.

The Vikings defense had a beautiful game against visiting Carolina; with Frerotte able to accomplish what Tarvaris Jackson could not in their first two losses, and finally sparking this talented offense, they were able to put together their first win of the season, 20-10, at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, in downtown Minneapolis. The Viking defense was stout as usual, and held the previously vaunted Panthers running game to a paltry 47 yards.

This game featured Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith’s homecoming to the Panthers after serving a two game suspension, and while he played well ( 4 receptions for 70 yards), it was not enough for Carolina to overcome Minnesota’s defense.

The Panthers put the first numbers on the scoreboard, with a John Kasay field goal in the first series of the game; rookie running back Jonathan Stewart opened the game with a thirty-eight yard return on a Ryan Longwell kickoff, and Smith caught his first pass back for 16 yards, which also had fifteen yards tacked onto it due to a face mask penalty from the Vikings’ Cedric Griffin. Panther quarterback Jake Delhomme could not get much else going on the drive, hence the 43-yarder by Kasay.

Frerotte wasn’t able to produce much more than Delhomme when Minnesota was given the ball next, especially with fifteen yards and two consecutive offensive penalties on the drive. After a fruitless Carolina series, with Delhomme throwing three straight incomplete passes, Minnesota takes over the ball again, but this time he is intercepted on a pass to former Bear Bernard Berrian. The ball appeared to graze Berrian’s hands as it went through them, and went right into the waiting hands of Carolina corner Chris Gamble. This marked Carolina’s first interception of their ’08 campaign, and Gamble’s eighteenth of his career, which put him in second place overall in team history. Carolina was not able to capitalize on the takeaway, however, and Minnesota was given the ball back, unscathed.

Delhomme’s first of three fumbles occurred with 1:28 left in the first quarter, and was recovered by Minnesota’s Ben Leber at their own 48. The Vikings came up empty on the drive, though, producing no points.

Carolina had the ball to open the second quarter, and were able to come away with a touchdown, giving them a 10 point lead. After a few short runs by fullback Brad Hoover and rookie Stewart, Delhomme connected on a 29-yarder to Steve Smith. Smith did not have many catches during the game, but they all garnered significant yardage. DeAngelo Williams had a six yard rush, and tight end Dante Rosario came up with a fourteen yard completion, setting up the two yard TD for Stewart, his third of his rookie campaign.

The Vikes finally put their own points on the board late in the second quarter, with a Longwell 28 yard field goal, making it 10-3. They were just getting started, though. On a missed Panther assignment, Antoine Winfield was able to rush into the backfield untouched to pummel Delhomme, who fumbled the ball. Winfield fielded the ball and returned it 19 yards to basically change the course of the game, and breathe life into his underachieving 0-2 team. What is disturbing is that this is the second straight week that valued veteran Nick Goings missed his read, producing a TD for the opposing team.

Goings was responsible for the blocked punt at the end of the Panthers’ opening drive of their contest against Chicago just a week ago, which was returned for a touchdown, and now he missed Winfield with Delhomme being the unhappy recipient. These mistakes are very uncharacteristic of Goings, who has been very astute and reliable for the Panthers. However this one proved to be the catalyst for the Vikings, who never looked back.

Jake Delhomme was harassed all day by Minnesota, being sacked five times, with numerous pressures. The Vikings were very successful in their plan to frustrate the excitable Cajun, who never did find his rhythm in the game.

Thirteen minutes into the third quarter Frerotte was able to connect tight end Visanthe Shiancoe for a thirty-four yard touchdown strike, to take their first lead of the game, 17-10. They never relinquished it.

Under constant duress, Carolina QB Delhomme fumbled again late in the 3rd, but fortunately center Ryan Kalil was able to recover it, in time for the Panthers to cap off another unproductive drive with a punt.

The Vikings put up the final points of the game with another Longwell field goal, putting them ahead for good at 20-10, at 9:11 to go in the fourth quarter. After Carolina dominated most of the first half, the Vikings proved their worth with this 19-play drive that actually chewed up a whopping 11 minutes and 34 seconds.

Carolina tried desperately to recreate some of the late-game magic they have had for the past two games, but to no avail… Minnesota was not having it, continuing to pound Delhomme til the end.

On the positive side, Carolina rookie sensation Jonathan Stewart proved he had some skills returning the ball, which is exactly what they have been lacking. Stewart managed 29.2 yards on returns, and actually had a sensational 87-yarder that was nullified by a teammate’s illegal block to the back. Recent signee Mark Jones also averaged ten yards on his returns, as well.

The scare with superstar running back Adrian Peterson’s hamstring seems to be abating, as he rushed 17 times for 77 yards, and reliable Chester Taylor had 11 for 44.

Minnesota’s drought is now over, and they can hopefully put their less than spectacular start to the 2008 season behind them.

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