Panthers vow to bounce back - again

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CHARLOTTE – The Panthers don't believe they played up to their standards last Sunday.

Julius Peppers finds it hard to believe that will happen again this Sunday.

"I don't think we'll have two bad games in a row," Peppers said. "The preparation will be where it needs to be, and I have confidence in these guys coming back and rectifying what went wrong last week."

A week after losing at the Saints in a game for first place in the NFC South, the Panthers host a Vikings team not only in first place in the NFC North but also currently in position to be the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Panthers will have to play better to knock off a team riding an eight-game winning streak, and history suggests they will.

Six times since the beginning of 2015 season, the Panthers have hosted a home game after suffering a loss the previous week. They've won five of those six games, the one exception coming when quarterback Cam Newton sat out a Monday Night Football game against the Buccaneers last season.

While the 2016 team finished a disappointing 6-10, it wasn't for lack of determination. That team went 4-1 in home games following a loss. This year's team will be playing at home immediately after a loss for the first time.

"This team, we know how to respond to a loss," cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. "It's about coming out and playing better than the last week, about going out there and competing."

Munnerlyn knows as well as anybody that beating the Vikings is a tall task. He played for a Minnesota team last season that stood as the NFL's last unbeaten after five weeks, a start that included a 22-10 triumph at Bank of America Stadium in Week 3.

Last year's Vikings wound up 8-8 and out of the playoffs.

"A lot of injuries hurt them last year. This year they're holding it together, playing good team football," Munnerlyn said before providing the perfect answer when asked how Carolina can handle a Vikings team that's even stronger than the one that won in Charlotte a year ago.

"I'm on the opposite side now," Munnerlyn said, "so I think I'm the difference maker."

The Vikings, coming off victories at Atlanta last week and at Detroit on Thanksgiving, are looking to play and win on the road for three consecutive weeks for the first time in team history. This is the ninth time since the franchise formed in 1961 that the Vikings have played back-to-back-to-back road games but the first time since 1989.

The Panthers will be kicking off a stretch of three homes games in three weeks. The last time they faced such a stretch, in 2015, they won all three games.

"We know what's at stake. If we defend our dirt, we're in the playoffs," Munnerlyn said. "We've got to get hot at the right time."


LAST TIME THEY PLAYED

View the top photos from Carolina's game against Minnesota by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.

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