The Series: With the 24-21 victory, Minnesota defeated Carolina for the third time in the last four meetings and leads the all-time series 6-4.
For Starters: After being inactive for the last two games with a knee injury, Omar Gaither returned to the starting lineup at weakside linebacker.
Rookie QBs On Display: 2011 first-round draft choices Cam Newton (selected first overall by Carolina) and Christian Ponder (chosen 12th overall by Minnesota) started at quarterback for the Panthers and Vikings respectively. Newton, who in Week 3 started opposite rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert (drafted 10th overall by Jacksonville) became the first rookie quarterback picked in the first round to start against two first-round quarterbacks from his class since the advent of the common draft in 1967.
Newton By Air: Rookie quarterback Cam Newton completed 22-of-35 passes to seven different receivers for 290 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions to compile a 117.6 quarterback rating. He threw touchdown passes of one yard to tight end Jeremy Shockey in the second quarter, 39 yards to tight end Greg Olsen in the second quarter and 22 yards to wide receiver Steve Smith in the third quarter. The three touchdowns tied the team single-game record for a rookie quarterback, previously accomplished by Kerry Collins at New Orleans (11/26/95).
The performance was Newton's fourth 290-yard passing game, and he joins Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts in 1998 as the only rookie quarterbacks in NFL history with at least four 290-yard passing efforts.
The starter in all eight games this season, Newton has completed 174-of-287 passes for 2,393 yards - the most ever by a rookie in NFL history through eight games - and 11 touchdowns with nine interceptions to post an 87.0 quarterback rating. He has passed for 300 yards or more in three games, producing three of the top four single-game passing totals in team history. Newton threw a touchdown in each of the first five games - the longest streak by a rookie quarterback in team history - bettering Chris Weinke's four consecutive games with a touchdown pass in 2001.
Newton By Ground: Rookie quarterback Cam Newton recorded a team-high 53 rushing yards with a long of 24 yards on six attempts. He has rushed for 319 yards and a team-leading seven touchdowns on 63 carries this season.
Newton's seven rushing touchdowns tie for the most by a rookie quarterback in a season since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, previously accomplished by Vince Young of the Tennessee Titans in 2006. The NFL record for the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback is 12 by Steve Grogan of the New England Patriots in 1976.
The 319 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns are the most in a season by a Panthers quarterback, eclipsing the previous highs of 128 yards and six touchdowns by Chris Weinke in 2001.
Smith On The Receiving End: Wide receiver Steve Smith, who entered the game ranked first in the NFL in receiving yards and tied for first in average yards per catch, tallied a team-high 100 yards receiving on seven catches with a 22-yard touchdown to produce his fifth 100-yard receiving effort this season. He leads the Panthers with 46 receptions for 918 yards and four touchdowns in 2011.
Smith previously compiled 178 yards at Arizona (9/11/11), 156 yards versus Green Bay (9/18/11), 181 yards at Chicago (10/2/11) and 143 yards versus Washington (10/23/11). The 181 yards are the third-highest total of his career behind a team-record 201 yards versus Minnesota (10/30/05) and 189 yards at Baltimore (10/15/06).
A four-time Pro Bowl selection, he ranks first in team history with 64 total touchdowns (56 receiving, 6 return, 2 rush), 56 receiving touchdowns, 9,802 receiving yards, 14.72 receiving average, and 37 games with 100 or more receiving yards. Smith stands second with 666 receptions (needs 31 catches to pass Muhsin Muhammad for the most in team history) and 386 points scored.
Streaking: Tight end Jeremy Shockey and wide receiver Steve Smith extended their consecutive game streaks with a catch. Shockey finished with one reception - a one-yard touchdown - and has caught a pass in all 129 regular season games he has played. Smith, meanwhile, has made a catch in 67 consecutive games, the third-longest streak in team history behind Wesley Walls' 70 games from 1996-2001 and his own 68 games from 2002-06.
Dynamic (Tight End) Duo: The combination of tight ends Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey combined for five receptions for 74 yards and two touchdowns. They became the first pair of tight ends to score in the same game for Carolina since Dante Rosario and Christian Fauria at Tampa Bay (12/30/07). Through eight games, Olsen ranks second on the team with 30 catches for 359 yards and Shockey is tied for third with 23 receptions for 292 yards and one touchdown. Together, they have caught 53 passes for 651 yards and five touchdowns. With eight games remaining, that already represents the most receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns by the Panthers tight ends since 2009.
Sharing The Load: Running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined to rush for 75 yards on 20 attempts. Williams ran for 26 yards on seven carries and added two catches for 13 yards. He leads the Panthers with 363 yards and one touchdown on 75 attempts this season. Stewart grinded out 49 yards on 13 carries and contributed two receptions for 10 yards. He ranks second on the team with 327 yards and two touchdowns on 71 attempts and is tied for third with a career-high 23 receptions for 220 yards.
Offensive Line Paves The Way: Behind an offensive line featuring Jordan Gross at left tackle, Travelle Wharton at left guard, Ryan Kalil at center, Geoff Hangartner at right guard, and Byron Bell at right tackle, the Panthers accumulated 140 yards rushing on 27 attempts - an average of 5.2 yards per carry.
The front five has helped Carolina total more than 100 yards rushing in six consecutive games, also exceeding 100 yards on the ground with 107 versus Jacksonville (9/25/11), 169 at Chicago (10/2/11), 162 versus New Orleans (10/9/11), 142 at Atlanta (10/16/11) and a season-high 175 versus Washington (10/23/11).
Takeaway/Giveaway: Carolina forced one turnover on a fumble when cornerback Captain Munnerlyn stripped the ball from Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin. The Panthers turned it over twice on two fumbles to finish with a minus-one turnover ratio. The one takeaway resulted in no points for Carolina, and the two giveaways led to 14 points for Minnesota. The Panthers have a negative-three turnover ratio this season, compiling a 2-0 record when having a positive turnover margin, an 0-4 record when being even in turnover margin, and an 0-2 record when having a negative turnover margin.
Sakrete Sacks: The Panthers collected a season-high four sacks against Minnesota. Rookie defensive tackle Terrell McClain corralled his first career sack, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn registered his second of the season on a blitz, and linebacker Omar Gaither notched his first of the year.
Defensive end Charles Johnson gathered a sack for the seventh time in eight games, dropping Ponder for a five-yard loss in the fourth quarter. He leads Carolina with seven sacks this year after registering a team- and career-high 11.5 sacks in 2010. Dating back to last season, Johnson has registered 15 sacks in his last 15 games.
During the 2011 season, Sakrete, a leader in concrete and concrete-related products, is donating $100 to the BVC Playground Build for every sack Carolina records. Through eight games, the Panthers have gathered 16 sacks, raising $1,600.
Mare Kicks Up The Charts: Kicker Olindo Mare scored three points against Minnesota to move into 16th place in NFL history for points scored with 1,477, bettering the 1,476 totaled by Steve Christie from 1990-2004. He connected on all three of his extra point chances and missed his only field goal attempt wide left from 31 yards. Mare has been successful on 18-of-19 extra point opportunities and 13-of-16 field goal attempts for a team-leading 57 points this season. In addition to being 16th in points scored, he ranks 15th all time with 341 made field goals.
Mare reached the end zone on all four of his kickoffs with three touchbacks. He has placed 35-of-42 kickoffs in the end zone with 27 touchbacks this season. Since 1997, Mare leads the NFL with 265 touchbacks.
Baker's Treat: Punter Jason Baker generated a gross average of 43.5 yards and net average of 43.0 yards with three inside the 20, no touchbacks and long of 52 yards on four punts. His gross average increased to 40.4 yards and his net average improved to 32.4 yards with 12 punts inside the 20, four touchbacks and long of 56 yards this season.
Baker is the Panthers' all-time leader with 535 punts and 162 punts inside the 20. He ranks second with a 43.92-yard gross punting average behind Todd Sauerbrun's 45.54 average.
Blues Tops: The Panthers wore their blue alternate jerseys for the second time this season after donning them versus Washington (10/23/11) and 19th time overall since debuting them in 2002. Carolina owns a 9-10 regular season record when wearing the blue tops. The NFL permits each team to wear its alternate jersey up to two times in the regular season each year.
Inactives: The following seven players were inactive for the Panthers: tight end Richie Brockel, cornerback Darius Butler, quarterback Jimmy Clausen, running back Mike Goodson, defensive tackle Frank Kearse, safety Jordan Pugh and tackle Lee Ziemba.