Vikings report card: Failure in all aspects of the game
OCT 14, 2013 3:51p ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- Two weeks to prepare and the Minnesota Vikings seemed to sleepwalk through Sunday's loss to the Carolina Panthers coming off the team's bye week.
Carolina didn't give Minnesota many chances early, dominating time of possession and the Vikings fell to 1-4 with the 35-10 loss.
"I am surprised," running back Adrian Peterson said of the performance out of the team's bye week. "It was definitely out of sync. We didn't play Minnesota football today, either side. Special teams did pretty good, but we seemed pretty flat today."
Being flat in an important home game leads to not-so-pleasant grades:
Pass offense: F
Only two events matter here: two interceptions. On a day in which the Vikings' defense didn't get a takeaway of its own, two interceptions impacted Minnesota's day greatly. The Vikings had driven down the field on their opening drive and appeared prime for points and an early lead. Then quarterback Matt Cassel had pressure come up the front as he was trying to throw and overthrew a receiver for an interception. The Panthers then possessed the ball for over nine minutes and concluded their drive with a touchdown and Minnesota never seemed to threaten afterward.
Cassel finished 32 of 44 passing for 241 yards. He threw a late touchdown to tight end Kyle Rudolph, which was only masking the final total. Cassel's second interception was also on an overthrow and the Vikings' quarterback decision remains up in the air for another week. Rudolph had his best game of the season with nine catches for 97 yards, but it was too little, too late for Minnesota. The next leading receiver was Greg Jennings with six catches for 34 yards.
Run offense: D
The Vikings running attack was taken out of the game because of the early big deficit. Minnesota was down 14-0 after two drives and went with a hurry-up attack on its final series of the first half to get a field goal. Then, Carolina scored on the opening drive of the second half and the Vikings all but abandoned the run trailing 21-3.
Adrian Peterson had only 10 carries -- the fewest carries he's had in a game since a 42-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 28, 2011 -- and fullback Jerome Felton was on the field for only six snaps. Peterson finished with 62 yards rushing, 31 coming on one run where Peterson nearly broke free. With the blowout in play and Minnesota in pass-only mode, Toby Gerhart played the most snaps he's played all season. Gerhart was on the field for 25 plays compared to Peterson's 37.
Pass defense: F
There's no getting around the weakest aspect of Minnesota's 2013 season. The Vikings pass rush hasn't lived up to its usual standards and the secondary has been exposed, both in depth and in quality of play. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton had completed fewer than 56 percent of his passes in the three previous games and been tormented by teams blitzing him, throwing five touchdowns to five interceptions the past three games.
Against Minnesota, Newton completed a career-best 76.9 percent of his passes, had three touchdowns and no interceptions and had the best single-game quarterback rating (143.4) of his career. Steve Smith was wide open on a crossing route for his touchdown and Brandon LaFell took advantage of missed coverage for an easy 79-yard touchdown catch on the first drive of the second half.
Cornerback Chris Cook returned, but rookie Xavier Rhodes missed time with a sprained ankle Sunday. Rhodes and Josh Robinson were responsible for the missed coverage on LaFell's touchdown and Robinson was covering Smith on his touchdown. Robinson had another tough day and was even benched at times for Marcus Sherels in the nickel defense until Rhodes was hurt. Making matters worse, Harrison Smith, the most reliable defensive back this season, didn't finish the game because of a turf toe injury.
Run defense: F
The Vikings have long prided themselves on stopping the run, but Carolina ran for 131 yards as a team on Sunday. DeAngelo Williams did most of the damage. He had 17 carries for 64 yards, including a 22-yarder. But Newton added to the woes when he was forced out of the pocket. He ran nine times for 30 yards. And Mike Tolbert did his part by breaking tackles and carrying defenders into the end zone on a short pass and run and then had eight carries for 27 yards.
The 131 yards were a season-high allowed by Minnesota. Carolina only averaged 3.4 yards per carry. But with a substantial lead, the Panthers wore down the clock and never gave the Vikings the chance to get back in the game, in part because of controlling the game on the ground.
Special teams: B
Special teams really didn't play a big factor in Sunday's game. Rookie punter Jeff Locke had the best game of his short career. He averaged 49.8 gross yards per punt and 44.3 net yards per punt. He had a 60-yard punt with good hangtime and Carolina's explosive returner, Ted Ginn only averaged 7.3 yards on three punt returns, the longest being an 11-yarder.
Locke was forced into kickoff duties with kicker Blair Walsh dealing with a hamstring injury. Ginn had two kickoff returns for 31 yards with one touchback. Walsh connected on his one field-goal attempt, a 22-yarder. He also kicked the extra point on Rudolph's touchdown.
Minnesota didn't get any return chances either. Punt returner Marcus Sherels fair caught two attempts. Kickoff returner Cordarrelle Patterson didn't have a chance with Graham Gano featuring a strong leg. Gano also had two kickoffs from the 50-yard line after penalties by the Vikings on two Carolina touchdowns.
The Vikings were flat and listless in a game they needed to win to maintain any faint hopes for the playoffs. Having an extra week to prepare, Minnesota was taken out of the game quickly and didn't seem to put forth the effort needed to claw back in. Coach Leslie Frazier said he and his assistant coaches needed to have the players better prepared. The Vikings were out of sync from the moment Cassel threw the first interception. There were breakdowns across the board and now Minnesota's season really is on the brink, this time regarding potential jobs rather than playoffs.
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