The Minnesota Vikings went down to Charlotte, North Carolina amid social unrest, and defeated the Carolina Panthers 22-10 on Sunday, improving to 3-0 on the season. The Vikings defense played a complete game, as they continuously disrupted Panthers star quarterback Cam Newton all afternoon. Newton was rattled all day and ended up throwing three interceptions.
Here are the three biggest takeaways from the Vikings’ win over the Panthers on Sunday:
1. No running game costs Carolina dearly
With Jonathan Stewart unable to play due to injury (shocker, I know), Carolina’s running attack is just simply not the same. Cameron Artis-Payne is young and still learning the pro game speed, Fozzy Whittaker is only a stop-gap that can gain in spurts and not much else, and Mike Tolbert is only a fullback at this stage of his NFL career. Newton has the size and legs to do damage (as we have seen in the past), but he must try to stay a pocket passer to remain healthy for the entire season.
For him to compensate for a lack of running attack, Newton has to become a more accurate down the field passer. This has been an Achilles’ Heel during his career. We all know that Cam Newton is a great player, but it is evident that he can’t do it all by himself.
2. The Vikings defense is the best in the NFC
When any team goes into the cauldron known as Bank of America Stadium and beat the defending NFC Champions on their home turf, is a pretty good accomplishment. Carolina was on a 14 game home winning streak, and it came to an abrupt end. The Vikings beat Carolina because of their championship caliber defense. They forced Newton to throw three interceptions and sacked him eight times.
They held all-world wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to ZERO catches. The Vikings have been elite in all three levels of its defense these first three games, and if they can continue this trend throughout the season, it will be very hard to beat the Vikings when they have the lead.
3. Minnesota is championship caliber in late September.
When one loses players like Adrian Peterson, Matt Kalil, Xavier Rhodes and Sharif Floyd, one would think that team would be in big trouble. However, injuries have not derailed this Vikings team at all. After three games, the Vikings seem like a good value bet to take the NFC.
They have not made costly mistakes, they have capitalized on its opponent’s mistakes, and have played with poise, confidence, and discipline – all hallmarks of a team coached by Mike Zimmer. Some are already saying that this might be the best Vikings team since the 15-1 1998 Vikings. If things keep going this route, they may be right.