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Vikings Fight to Finish, Fall 31-24 at Panthers

Posted Dec 10, 2017

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jonathan Stewart and Cam Newton had runs that gained 60-plus yards and led to 14 points in a 31-24 victory by Carolina on Sunday.

Newton broke free for a 62-yard run on a read option before the two-minute warning, running all the way from the Carolina 30 to the Minnesota 8 before Trae Waynes tackled him.

Stewart scored on Carolina’s third offensive play of the game, scooting through a hole at the line of scrimmage and zooming 60 yards on a third-and-1.

Newton’s long one set up a 1-yard jumping-reach-across-the-goal-line by Stewart for his third score of the day and the decisive score.

The late touchdown by the Panthers undid a frantic comeback by Minnesota, which trailed 24-13 with six minutes in the game.

Adam Thielen’s 52-yard touchdown, followed by a two-point conversion pass from Case Keenum to Blake Bell made it 24-21 with 5:36 remaining.

Andrew Sendejo then returned an interception of Newton 34 yards to the Carolina 6, but the Vikings were forced to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Kai Forbath to tie the game with 3:07 left.

The Vikings fought through multiple injuries on the offensive line. Minnesota started Nick Easton at center in place of Pat Elflein and Rashod Hill at right tackle for Mike Remmers. Jeremiah Sirles started at left guard.

After left tackle Riley Reiff went down, with an ankle injury, the Vikings moved Hill to left tackle and Sirles to right tackle. Danny Isidora came in at left guard.

Injuries, turnovers and early penalties proved too much for the Vikings to overcome.

Thielen finished with six catches for 105 yards. Keenum was 27-of-44 passing for 280 yards with two scores and two interceptions for a passer rating of 75.9.

Keenum was picked off on his second attempt of the game after taking a deep shot down the sideline to Thielen. Daryl Worley came down with the football at the Carolina 31.

The Vikings answered the Panthers quick strike with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that Keenum finished with a beautiful 18-yard pass to Kyle Rudolph. The quarterback dropped the ball just over the outstretched arms of Mike Adams.

 The Panthers, however, retaliated with a 14-play, 89-yard drive that lasted 7:12 and ended with a 1-yard plunge by Stewart.

The possession — which was extended with a facemask penalty on Anthony Barr and helped with another 15-yard penalty against Everson Griffen for the same reason — was the longest in yards and third longest scoring drive allowed by Minnesota this season.

Minnesota added a field goal with 5:02 left in the first half. Kai Forbath was true on a 30-yarder to cap a nine-play, 62-yard drive that lasted 4:03.

Keenum ducked under a tackle attempt during a blitz by former Vikings nickel Captain Munnerlyn. After avoiding the tackle for loss, Keenum found Rudolph open in the middle of the field for a gain of 13 and followed with a quick pass to the tight end for 10 more.

Jerick McKinnon then slipped free for runs of 8 and 17 yards to move the ball to the Carolina 19. The drive, however, stalled at the 12.

The Vikings defense gave the offense another scoring opportunity with 2:33 left in the first half, and Minnesota added a 22-yard field goal by Forbath after the Vikings gained 64 yards on 11 plays.

Laquon Treadwell had catches of 8 and 15 yards to convert a pair of third downs, and Keenum overcame a sack by Julius Peppers with a 15-yard scramble.

Carolina built a 21-13 lead with 8:42 left in the third quarter thanks to an 18-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Devin Funchess. Newton was patient in the pocket.

The Vikings turned the ball over on their next snap when Mario Addison hit the ball during Keenum’s delivery. The play was ruled a fumble by Keenum. Addison was credited with a sack, and the Panthers took over at the Vikings 31.

Minnesota’s defense, however, limited Carolina to a 41-yard field goal by Graham Gano that put the Panthers up 24-13 with 6:51 remaining.

The Vikings had an opportunity to add points after the special teams unit downed a punt at the Carolina 2 and forced a quick punt that Marcus Sherels returned to the 30-yard line.

The Vikings lost 6 yards on the possession and tried a 54-yard field goal that was off the mark.

Minnesota drove to the Carolina 26 on its next possession, but James Bradberry picked off a Keenum pass that was high and bounced off Diggs’ hands.

The Vikings defense forced a quick three-and-punt, and the offense found a spark with four short throws, the last of which was Thielen’s 52-yarder.