MINNEAPOLIS – While running back Jonathan Stewart had his most productive day of the season, the circumstances of the game limited his chances and the final score limited the Panthers' excitement over it.
Stewart rushed 12 times for 85 yards and added two receptions for 25 yards to finish with 110 combined yards. He averaged 7.9 yards per touch and helped Carolina rush for a season-high 178 yards.
"We did some really good things in the run game," head coach Ron Rivera said. "I like what Jonathan did today. He did a nice job, did some things really well."
Quarterback Cam Newton was sacked four times by a Vikings defense that entered Week 13 tied for fourth in the NFL in sacks, but Newton gained 49 yards on the ground.
"We'll have to look at the film, but I feel like we played pretty well as an offensive line," guard Trai Turner said. "But we didn't win, so it wasn't enough."
Added Newton: "When you rush the football for more than 150 yards, that's a positive. We did some good things but not enough good things."
The Panthers' need to play catch-up curtailed Stewart's chances, but he got a few more carries after running mate DeAngelo Williams was sidelined in the second half with a hand injury. The extent of the injury isn't known. Rookie safety Tre Boston left the game with an ankle injury but said after the game that X-rays were negative.
COLD-COCKED: Rivera delivered a pregame message to the Panthers about the impact that physicality could have in the cold.
Linebacker Luke Kuechly got the message loud and clear.
In the second-coldest game in team history, Kuechly led the Panthers with nine tackles, including a career-high two sacks.
"Walter Payton came to me one day and told us, "The game's going to come down to who hits the hardest in the cold,' " Rivera said. "I told our players that if you guys want to win this game, hit hard."
Kuechly was responsible for two of the Panthers' three sacks, and Carolina held Minnesota to less than 100 yards rushing. The Panthers also forced two fumbles, but one was near the sideline and went out of bounds, and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater recovered the other one.
Unfortunately, for the seventh consecutive game, it didn't add up to a victory.
"No one is going to quit," Kuechly said. "We just have to keep getting better and come back each week with the same mindset of, "What can we do to get a win?'"
NORMAN FLAGGED: Cornerback Josh Norman apologized to his teammates for an unsportsmanlike conduct flag late in the first half that opened the door for a Vikings touchdown. But Norman was surprised by the sight of the flag in the first place.
"I was walking, and the guy ended up stopping and turned around. Then he threw the flag, and I was like, 'Wow. Really?'" Norman said. "But it is what it is. I apologized to the team for it."
Approaching the two-minute warning, Norman broke up a pass over the middle intended for wide receiver Charles Johnson to set up a third down. After the play the two jawed with one another heading back to the line of scrimmage, and Norman got flagged. The penalty moved the ball to the Vikings' 41-yard line, and they scored 16 seconds before the half.