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Panthers 35, Vikings 10

MINNEAPOLIS -- The first half featured fourth-down tension and the deafening noise the Panthers were expecting during their visit to Minnesota's Mall of America Field on Sunday.

But Carolina ensured crowd noise wasn't much of a factor in the second half. The Panthers pulled away with 21 consecutive points after halftime to silence the dome and claim a 35-10 victory.

Safety Mike Mitchell intercepted Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel on the game's opening possession, and the Panthers took advantage of the early mistake.

Carolina then manufactured a 15-play, 62-yard touchdown drive that featured two conversions on fourth-and-one. Fullback Mike Tolbert gained two yards to extend the drive at the Minnesota 30-yard line, and wide receiver Steve Smith hauled in a 2-yard touchdown on the second fourth down to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead.

"It set the tone for everything, and it gave us an opportunity," Smith said of the scoring drive.

The Panthers used a 14-play, 82-yard drive to double the lead in the second quarter. Carolina needed just one third-down conversion before quarterback Cam Newton tossed a shovel pass to Tolbert, who broke several tackles on his way up the middle for a 10-yard touchdown.

Minnesota entered the red zone for the first time late in the second quarter, looking to cut Carolina's lead to one possession before halftime. But the Panthers forced consecutive incompletions from the 4-yard line, and the Vikings had to settle for a 22-yard field goal from Blair Walsh in the closing seconds.

The Panthers held a halftime lead for the fifth consecutive game, and they quickly extended this one.

Newton found wide receiver Brandon LaFell wide open down the right sideline on the third play of the second half, and thanks to a crushing block from fellow-wideout Ted Ginn to erase the last defender, LaFell trotted into the end zone for a 79-yard score.

"It was a big lift," LaFell said. "We've been in that situation coming out of halftime time and time again, and we didn't come out and score on that first drive. To get that touchdown on the first drive, it kind of took them off their game."

Tackle Jordan Gross said, "Explosive plays really boost the team that has them and demoralizes the team that it happens to."

That appeared to be the case in this contest.

Following LaFell's touchdown, Minnesota went three-and-out. The Panthers then produced a 53-yard drive that culminated with Newton scrambling for a 7-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 28-3.

Mitchell's second interception of the game set up Tolbert's second touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, as the fullback plowed into the end zone for a 1-yard score.

"The biggest thing was we got down in the red zone, and we were 4-for-4," head coach Ron Rivera said. "When you do those things you give yourself an opportunity to win."

Quarterback Derek Anderson and several other backups took over for the final two possessions, and the Vikings added a late touchdown before Carolina closed out it's first road victory of the season.

"A good team will get a lead, keep a lead and extend a lead," Gross said. "We were able to do that today. That's who we need to be every week."

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