The Series: With the 26-7 victory, the Panthers ended a two-game losing streak against the Vikings, who lead the all-time series 5-4. Despite having played nine times, this marked only the second-ever meeting between the two teams at Carolina, both of which the Panthers won by an average of 22.0 points.
Inactives: The following eight players were inactive for the Panthers: quarterback Jake Delhomme, fullback Tony Fiammetta, running back Mike Goodson, wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett, defensive tackle Derek Landri, tackle Rob Petitti, defensive end Hilee Taylor, and cornerback C.J. Wilson.
For Starters: Matt Moore started his third consecutive game at quarterback in place of Jake Delhomme, who was out with a broken finger on his right hand. Geoff Schwartz, who spent the 2008 season on the Panthers' practice squad, made his first NFL start at right tackle for Jeff Otah, who was placed on injured reserve (12/15/09) with a left knee injury. Dante Rosario made his sixth start of the season as Carolina began in a two-tight end set.
Defensively, rookie cornerback Captain Munnerlyn made his fourth start of the season as the Panthers opened in a nickel defense. The change resulted in Carolina's 14th different defensive starting lineup in as many games this year with 20 different players making starts. Only four players - linebacker Jon Beason, cornerback Chris Gamble, defensive tackle Damione Lewis, and cornerback Richard Marshall - have started every game on defense in 2009.
Total Offense: Carolina accumulated 397 yards of total offense with 124 yards rushing and 273 yards passing against a Minnesota defense that entered the game ranked sixth in the NFL, yielding 303.6 yards per game. It represented the Panthers' third-highest output this season behind the 440 yards gained at Atlanta (9/20/09) and 425 yards totaled versus Buffalo (10/25/09).
Points Of Attack: The Panthers generated 26 points against a Vikings' defense that began the game ranked ninth in the NFL in points allowed, surrendering 18.7 per game. Carolina exploded for 20 fourth-quarter points to tie the team record for the second-most points ever tallied in the quarter, previously accomplished versus the New York Jets (11/13/05). The team record for the most points in the fourth quarter is 21, previously accomplished twice - most recently versus Tampa Bay (12/8/08).
Ball Hogs: Carolina maintained possession for a season-high 37:59, possessing the ball almost 16 minutes longer than Minnesota. The Panthers held the ball for 18:21 in the first half, including 8:15 in the first quarter and 10:06 in the second quarter, and 19:38 in the second half, including 8:56 in the third quarter and 10:42 in the fourth quarter.
Third Down Yields First Down: The Panthers converted eight-of-17 third downs for a 47.1 percent conversion rate en route to gaining 23 first downs - seven rushing, 15 passing and one by penalty. The Vikings started the game with the third-rated third-down defense in the NFL with a 34.2 percent conversion rate. The 23 first downs are the second most by Carolina this season behind the 24 picked up at Atlanta (9/20/09).
In The Zone: The Panthers scored on all three of their trips inside the Vikings' 20-yard line, producing three touchdowns. Carolina has been successful on 29-of-35 red zone opportunities, scoring 18 touchdowns and 11 field goals for an 82.9 percent conversion rate and 51.4 percent touchdown conversion rate this season.
Offensive Line Paves The Way, Provides Protection: Behind an offensive line featuring Travelle Wharton at left tackle, Mackenzy Bernadeau at left guard, Ryan Kalil at center, Keydrick Vincent at right guard and Geoff Schwartz at right tackle - who was making his first career start, the Panthers' fourth-ranked rushing attack gained 124 yards on 40 attempts for an average of 3.1 yards per carry against a Vikings' run defense that began the game ranked fourth in the NFL, allowing 86.9 yards per game. Carolina is averaging 148.1 yards rushing per game and 4.7 yards per rush this season.
The offensive line allowed just two sacks in 35 pass plays for a 5.7 sacks per-pass-play percentage against a Minnesota pass rush that entered the game ranked second in the NFL with a 9.3 sacks per-pass-play percentage and had recorded 41 sacks.
Moore The Merrier: Quarterback Matt Moore completed 21-of-33 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions to produce a 123.2 quarterback rating - all career highs. He threw touchdown passes of one yard to fullback Brad Hoover in the first quarter, 42 yards to wide receiver Steve Smith in the fourth quarter and two yards to running back Jonathan Stewart in the fourth quarter. In five games with three starts this season, Moore has completed 56-of-95 passes for 720 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions.
|30 - at New England (1213/09)
|19 - vs. Seattle (12/16/07)
|208 - vs. Seattle (12/16/07)
|2 - at Tampa Bay (12/30/07)
|94.8 - at Tampa Bay (12/30/07)
In six career starts, including the last three games of the 2007 season and Weeks 13-15 in 2009, Moore has compiled a 4-2 record as a starter. Five of his six starts have come against teams that were leading their division at the time of the game with the exception being versus Tampa Bay (12/6/09). In those six starts, Moore has completed 99-of-162 passes for 1,221 yards and seven touchdowns with three interceptions to generate a 91.1 quarterback rating.
Smitty Climbs The Charts: Wide receiver Steve Smith scored on a 42-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter to tie Muhsin Muhammad for first place in team history with 49 receiving touchdowns. He finished the game with season highs of nine catches and 157 yards to compile his second 100-yard receiving performance this year. Smith leads the Panthers with 60 receptions for 922 yards and six touchdowns this season. In addition to being tied for first in receiving touchdowns, Smith ranks first in team history with 57 total touchdowns [49 pass, 6 return, 2 run] and 32 games with 100 or more receiving yards and second with 569 catches, 8,270 receiving yards and 344 points scored.
Hot Stew: Running back Jonathan Stewart rushed for a team-leading 109 yards and one touchdown - scoring on a determined three-yard run in the fourth quarter - on 25 carries to produce his fifth career 100-yard rushing effort and third this season. He became the first 100-yard rusher against the Vikings in more than two years since Ryan Grant with 119 yards for Green Bay (11/11/07). Stewart ranks second on the Panthers with 802 yards and a team-leading eight rushing touchdowns on 177 carries this season.
Stewart also caught two passes for 14 yards and scored his first career receiving touchdown on a two-yard reception in the fourth quarter. It marked the first time that a Panthers player had a rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game since running back DeAngelo Williams versus Kansas City (10/5/08). Stewart has established career bests with 16 catches and 123 receiving yards this season, surpassing his totals of eight catches and 47 yards as a rookie in 2008.
Stingy Defense: The Panthers held the Vikings, who began the game as the NFL's second-highest scoring team with an average of 29.9 points, to seven points - which represented a season low for the Minnesota and was the second fewest allowed by Carolina this year.
Jungle Net: The Panthers yielded 237 total net yards to the Vikings, who were ranked sixth in the NFL in total offense with an average of 379.0 yards. Carolina limited Minnesota to a season-low 41 rushing yards, including just 35 by the NFL's third leading rusher Adrian Peterson, and 196 passing yards. The Vikings - who were rated third in the NFL in third-down efficiency - converted only one-of-10 third-down opportunities. The one third-down conversion represented the fewest by Minnesota all season, and the 10 percent conversion rate marked lowest percentage of third downs converted against Carolina this year.
Takeaway/Giveaway: The Panthers forced two turnovers on an interception by safety Chris Harris and a fumble that was recovered by Harris and forced by safety Charles Godfrey. The two takeaways resulted in no points for Carolina. The Panthers did not commit any turnovers, their second consecutive and fourth turnover-free game this season, to finish with a plus-two turnover ratio. The last time Carolina did not turn the ball over in back-to-back games occurred at the New York Giants (12/21/08) and at New Orleans (12/28/08). The Panthers have a negative-one turnover ratio this season.
The Panthers, who began the game ranked fifth in the NFL in takeaways, have forced 30 turnovers on 19 interceptions and 11 fumbles this year. In the last eight games, Carolina has collected 23 takeaways after generating just seven in the first six games.
Harris Wreaks Havoc: Safety Chris Harris created a turnover for the fourth consecutive game with two takeaways - a fumble recovery and an interception. He recovered a fumble by Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice in the third quarter and picked off Vikings quarterback Brett Favre in the fourth quarter to clinch the victory. Last week at New England, Harris caused Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss to fumble. Versus Tampa Bay (12/6/09), he recorded his first interception of the season with a heist in the end zone to prevent a touchdown. At the New York Jets (11/29/09), Harris knocked the ball away from Jets tight end Dustin Keller at Carolina's one-yard line as he attempted to stretch the ball over the goal line.
Harris has a knack for taking the ball away. In 2007, he led the NFL and set a Panthers' single-season record with eight forced fumbles. In addition to the eight forced fumbles, Harris recovered three fumbles and posted one interception to play a role in eight of Carolina's 30 takeaways.
Sack Party: The Panthers collected four sacks against the Vikings and have gathered 27 this season with defensive linemen accounting for 21.5 of them. Defensive end Everette Brown, linebacker James Anderson, cornerback Dante Wesley and defensive end Julius Peppers each notched one quarterback takedown.
Brown's 2.5 sacks this season are the most by a Panthers rookie since Julius Peppers with 12 in 2002. Anderson's sack was his first sack since registering two as a rookie in 2006, and Wesley posted the second of his career and first since at Atlanta (12/7/03). Peppers leads the team with 9.5 sacks this season and ranks as the Panthers' all-time leader with 80.0.
The Specialists: Kicker John Kasay connected on two of his three extra-point chances. He had a team-record streak of 157 consecutive extra points snapped when Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards blocked his attempt following the Panthers' touchdown in the second quarter. Kasay last missed a point-after-touchdown versus Green Bay (10/3/05). He has been successful on 17-of-22 field-goal attempts and 24-of-25 extra-point opportunities for a team-leading 75 points this season. Kasay ranks seventh in NFL history with 403 made field goals and 10th with 1,709 points scored - including a franchise record 1,368 for the Panthers.
Punter Jason Baker equaled his season high of seven punts and generated a gross average of 41.1 yards and net average of 30.0 yards with one inside the 20, one touchback and long of 50 yards. His gross average decreased to 44.5 yards and his net average fell to 36.1 yards with 20 punts inside the 20, four touchbacks, one block and long of 61 yards this season.
Kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd placed two of his five kickoffs in the end zone with one touchback, helping limit Minnesota to an average kickoff drive start of the 27-yard line. He has reached the end zone on 38-of-59 kickoffs with 19 touchbacks this season.
Prime Time Panthers: Carolina's all-time record improved to 10-14 in prime time during the regular season with the win. Of the Panthers' 24 prime-time games, 12 have occurred on Sunday night, nine on Monday night, two on Saturday night and one on Thursday night.
Claw Marks: Rookie offensive lineman Duke Robinson was active for the first time this season after being inactive for the first 13 games but did not play...Fullback Brad Hoover grabbed a one-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. It was his first touchdown since scoring on a five-yard run versus Tampa Bay (11/13/06) and first touchdown catch since a 16-yarder versus Oakland (11/7/04)...The Panthers attempted a two-point conversion following their first fourth-quarter touchdown. The attempt failed when quarterback Matt Moore threw an incomplete pass intended for wide receiver Kenny Moore. It marked Carolina's first unsuccessful two-point attempt since quarterback Vinny Testaverde was sacked at Arizona (10/14/07). The Panthers had converted their previous two two-point conversions this season.