EAGAN, Minn. – It remains to be seen if Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey will return to action this week against the Vikings and play for the first time since suffering a hamstring in Week 3.
If the member of the 2017 NFL Draft class (along with Minnesota's Dalvin Cook and a host of other productive running backs) is able to do so, he'll likely try to stress the Vikings defense in multiple directions.
"McCaffrey's hard to defend because he can hurt you running the ball as a running back, he can line up as a wide receiver, he can hurt you vertical catching the ball as a receiver and then he can hurt you just catching the ball out of the backfield," said Vikings Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator Andre Patterson. "So everyone has to be aware of where he is, but I think most importantly, you have to do a great job of tackling him, because the thing that he does is he slips tacklers, he has the ability to make you miss."
Eric Kendricks is Minnesota's leading tackler with 55, which ranks third in the NFL through five weeks, according to league stats. The middle linebacker also came up with a nifty one-handed interception last week that was critical to the Vikings eventual 19-17 win.
"He just has a great feel for the game, and that comes from studying what you're getting, reading the quarterback's eyes, anticipating things — and he's tremendous at it," Co-Defensive Coordinator Adam Zimmer said. "In fact, I talked to the Cleveland coaches after the game and they said, 'He's the best one we've gone against.' Because he's just so quick to react and know what he's getting all the time, and that's a tribute to him as far as his work in the film room and studying and know what route concept is coming, but also just that natural ability to make a play on the ball."
Zimmer said that the Vikings had re-watched their 2020 game against Carolina in which Kendricks' previous interception had occurred.
"It wasn't even his play, it was Eric Wilson's," Zimmer said. "So, he's just got that knack for finding the football."
Here are all the ways to catch the action, a synopsis of the series history and a key topic addressed this week by Vikings Offensive Coordinator Klint Kubiak, Patterson, Zimmer and Special Teams Coordinator Ryan Ficken.
FOX (KMSP FOX 9 in the Twin Cities)
Kickoff: Noon (CT)
Play-by-Play: Kenny Albert
Analyst: Jonathan Vilma
Field Reporter: Sara Walsh
Fans who live in the yellow areas shown on the map from 506sports.com will be able to watch the game on their iOS mobile devices with the Vikings app or Vikings mobile site (Safari browser only). The Yahoo! Sports app for smartphones and tablets offers another method for viewing live local and prime-time NFL games.
Radio: KFAN (100.3-FM), KTLK (1130-AM) and the five-state Vikings Radio Network
Radio Pregame Show: Hosted by Mike Mussman (10 a.m.)
Play-by-Play: Paul Allen
Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline reporters: Greg Coleman and Ben Leber
Minnesota: Sirius 133, XM 383, SXM App 820
Carolina: Sirius 83, XM 225, SXM App 804
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Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Panthers.
The Vikings are 9-6 all time and 2-3 in road games against the Panthers. Minnesota won at Carolina in 2011 and 2016 but lost in 2005, 2009 and 2017.
Kubiak on first drives that have scored in the past four games (three touchdowns and one field goal):
"I just think it's our players; our players being dialed-in early in games and making plays that are coming their way. The quarterback's doing a great job of getting us into the right play. We have plenty of times where we have a couple of plays called, and Kirk [Cousins is] seeing the defense and getting us into the right play. So I put a lot on Kirk, just our guys executing.
"He can handle a lot; he can probably handle even more than we're giving him. He's been so dialed-in, and I can't say enough about his leadership this year."
Patterson on D.J. Wonnum's sack of Jared Goff:
"The one that D.J. got happened because they were trying to get two guys on Danielle [Hunter]. Okay? So they were trying to get the guard and tackle to block Danielle. If the nose was to Danielle's side, the guard would give a hand to the nose, and then run out to (Danielle), so they could get the tackle and the guard on (Danielle).
"I saw that, and then I called a game where Sheldon [Richardson] hit hard in the A-gap, and the guard went out to (Danielle), and then D.J. wrapped back around when the guard voided to go help on (Danielle), and D.J. got clean right up in the quarterback's face."
Zimmer on Barr's return:
"I think he did good. The first couple of series he was kind of feeling his way out, you know, it's been a while since he'd been in a real game. I thought he moved around pretty good, he got comfortable, he was great in communication. So, I expect him to build on that as we keep going through the season."
Ficken on what he watches during game-winning field goal attempts:
"First and foremost, protection. I'm looking at the protection and making sure you protect the launch point. Then I'm going to watch [Greg Joseph] and his technique and everything. And then my eyes will follow the ball to more of the outside guys at the point of attack. But first and foremost, the protection."