The Vikings enter the game coming off of a 31-28 upset loss at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys. The loss dropped their record to 4-6.
The Panthers are coming off of a 20-0 shutout win over the Detroit Lions. They now stand at 4-7 on the season.
The Panthers hosted the Detroit Lions in Week 11 and they were not very hospitable in their shutout win.
Carolina started P.J. Walker at quarterback in place of the injured Teddy Bridgewater. Despite just a few minutes’ notice that he would be taking the reins, Walker had a decent, if not spectacular, game. He went 24-34 for 258 yards and a touchdown but had two interceptions, both thrown in the end zone.
The Panthers’ touchdowns came on a one-yard run from running back Mike Davis, also a fill-in as Christian McCaffrey sat out the game with a shoulder injury. Davis would rush for 64 yards on 19 carries for the game.
The big play on the drive was a Walker to D.J. Moore 52-yard pass. Moore led all receivers on the day, accumulating 127 yards on seven catches. The rest of the Panthers’ offense was provided by kicker Joey Slye, who hit a 56-yard bomb and later made a 37-yard field goal after a running-into-the-kicker penalty erased his missed 42-yard attempt.
This game belonged to the Panthers defense. They recorded five sacks on the day and held Detroit to just 185 yards in total offense.
The Vikings welcomed the Dallas Cowboys to Minnesota and let them have full run of the place.
Andy Dalton was more like Timothy Dalton as James Bond with a license to kill the Vikings’ playoff hopes. He completed 22 of his 32 throws for 203 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. He orchestrated an 11-play, 61-yard drive that ended with the eventually game-winning touchdown to Dalton Schultz.
Zeke Elliott looked like his old self, picking up 103 yards on 21 carries. Amari Cooper led the receivers with 81 yards on six catches, one being a crucial 10-yarder on 4th-and-6 during the final touchdown drive.
The Vikings’ offense was the lone bright spot for the game. Kirk Cousins went 22-of-30 with 314 yards and three touchdowns. Dalvin Cook continued to put up solid numbers as he had 115 rushing yards on 27 carries and a touchdown. Cook did, however, have a crucial fumble at the end of the first half that swung momentum.
Adam Thielen had an outstanding game catching eight passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns. His first was a one-handed, toe-tap in the back corner of the end zone. Justin Jefferson added 80 yards on three catches, including a 39-yard touchdown grab, but he also had a critical drop on the Vikings’ final possession that was instrumental in ending any chance of a comeback.
McCaffrey is not expected back for this one but Teddy Bridgewater is. That might actually play well for the Vikings, who have a history of failing against backup quarterbacks.
The Minnesota defense and special teams continue to be points of concern. Kris Boyd nullified his own catch on a fake punt with an illegal shift penalty and then got called for a push in the back on the ensuing punt. The punt coverage team also allowed a 20-yard return that set up Dallas with great field position on the game-winning touchdown drive.
The rookie cornerbacks continue their struggles in pass coverage, and Harrison Smith has seen his game altered as he is constantly playing babysitter to the kid corners.
Carolina’s defense is coming off of its best game of the year but Dalvin Cook is a far different running back than the past-his-prime Adrian Peterson running in Detroit. I think the Minnesota offense can keep them in this game but Teddy is a solid game manager who rarely makes mistakes.
The Vikings enter this game 1-4 at home. I see one for the thumb, with a 28-23 loss coming at the hands of the Panthers.
(Featured Image Credit: Vikings.com)