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Early Look: Vikings to Face Panthers for 16th Time and 6th in Carolina

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings are shifting gears after a game-winning drive against one of their most common opponents to make one of their rarest road trips.

Minnesota (2-3) will visit Carolina (3-2) for just the sixth time. The Panthers began play in 1995 and first hosted the Vikings in 2005.

This will be a rematch of a down-to-the-wire 28-27 Vikings victory over the Panthers at U.S. Bank Stadium in 2020.

Here's an Early Look at the Vikings Week 6 matchup against the Panthers, presented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Official LASIK partner of the Minnesota Vikings.

STAT OF THE WEEK

The Vikings are one of two teams in the NFL who have two players with 4.0 or more sacks apiece. Danielle Hunter has 6.0, which is tied for fourth in the NFL, and Everson Griffen has 4.0 after recording 2.0 last week against Detroit. The Bears (Robert Quinn, 4.5 and Khalil Mack, 5.0) are the other team.

NORSEMAN NOTES

QB Kirk Cousins threw his 200th career touchdown, becoming the 46th NFL player with that many, last week. It was his 101st with Minnesota.

RB Alexander Mattison set a new career high with 113 rushing yards, fueled by a 48-yard gain against Detroit.

WR Justin Jefferson totaled 124 receiving yards against the Lions after racking up 104 in the first half. It was the ninth 100-yard game of Jefferson's two-season career (21 games). His nine 100-yard games rank second in the NFL since 2020 behind Green Bay's Davante Adams (10 games).

WR Adam Thielen moved past Ahmad Rashad (5,489) for seventh on Minnesota's career receiving yards list. He has 5,507 entering Week 6 and is 800 yards shy of Vikings Ring of Honor tight end Steve Jordan.

DE Everson Griffen has recorded at least one sack in each of his past three games, pushing his career total to 84.5, including 78.5 with Minnesota. He ranks seventh in team history. Griffen is scheduled to play in his 152nd game Sunday, which will move him past Mark Mullaney for fifth among Vikings defensive ends all-time.

DE Danielle Hunter's sack against Detroit moved him past Brian Robison and 2021 Vikings Ring of Honor inductee Kevin Williams and into a tie with Doug Martin (60.5) for eighth in franchise history.

LB Eric Kendricks ranks third in the NFL with 55 tackles on the season, the most he's recorded through the first five games of a season. Kendricks recorded his ninth career interception, tying him with Wally Hilgenberg for ninth among Vikings linebackers.

K Greg Joseph's 55-yard and game-winning 54-yard field goals against the Lions are the two longest of his career.

KNOW THE FOE

Head Coach: Matt Rhule, 2nd season with Detroit (8-13)

Rhule was hired by Carolina after leading an impressive turnaround in three seasons at Baylor. The Bears went from 1-11 in 2017 to 7-6 and 11-3 under Rhule. After joining the Panthers, he helped four players gain more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage in his first season, making Carolina the fifth team in the Super Bowl era with that widespread production.

QB Sam Darnold was acquired by Carolina in a trade this offseason. The 2018 third overall pick won his first three games as the Panthers starter after going 13-25 in three seasons with the Jets. Darnold has five of Carolina's seven rushing touchdowns this season.

WR DJ Moore, the 24th overall pick of 2018, leads the Panthers with 35 catches, 440 yards and three receiving touchdowns. He has finished each of the past two seasons with four receiving touchdowns.

Rookie RB Chuba Hubbard has gotten most of the workload while RB Christian McCaffrey has been out with a hamstring. Hubbard rushed 24 times for 101 yards Sunday against Philadelphia.

OLB Haason Reddick is tied for second in the NFL with 6.5 sacks. He joined Carolina this offseason after totaling 20 sacks in his first four seasons with Arizona.

S Jeremy Chinn returned two fumbles for touchdowns against Minnesota last season.

Carolina has only allowed 25 points to opponents in first halves this season while totaling 69 points. The Panthers have scored just seven in third quarters this season.

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Panthers.

CONNECTIONS

VIKINGS-PANTHERS

Vikings DE Stephen Weatherly played for the Panthers in 2020.

Panthers WR Brandon Zylstra played for the Vikings in 2018, and G Pat Elflein (Injured Reserve) was with Minnesota from 2017-2020.

LOCAL CONNECTIONS

Vikings C Garrett Bradbury and practice squad S Myles Dorn (Charlotte), LB Chazz Surratt (Denver), G Olisaemeka Udoh (Fayetteville) and practice squad CB Tye Smith (Raleigh) are from North Carolina.

Zylstra (Spicer) is from Minnesota.

FORMER PRO TEAMMATES

Vikings DT Sheldon Richardson, practice squad CB Parry Nickerson and G Dakota Dozier at the Jets with Panthers WR Robby Anderson and LB Julian Stanford; Dozier and Panthers QB Sam Darnold with the Jets

Minnesota WR Dede Westbrook and Carolina CB A.J. Bouye at Jacksonville

Vikings DT Dalvin Tomlinson and Panthers S Sean Chandler with the Giants

Minnesota K Greg Joseph and practice squad CB Tye Smith with Carolina DT DaQuan Jones in Tennessee

Vikings CB Bashaud Breeland and Panthers T Cameron Erving with the Chiefs

Minnesota C Mason Cole and Carolina OLB Haason Reddick at Arizona

FORMER COLLEGE TEAMMATES

Vikings RB Dalvin Cook and Panthers DE Brian Burns at Florida State

Minnesota C Garrett Bradbury and S Juston Burris (Injured Reserve) at N.C. State

Vikings LB Ryan Connelly and Panthers WR Alex Erickson at Wisconsin

Minnesota LB Troy Dye and Carolina RB Royce Freeman at Oregon

Vikings DE D.J. Wonnum and practice squad T Zack Bailey at South Carolina with Panthers G Dennis Daley and P Joseph Charlton

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Oct. 23, 2021.

VIKINGS TOP PERFORMERS VS. PANTHERS

CAREER TOTALS

Offense

Kirk Cousins: 3 games (0-2 with Washington; 1-0 with Minnesota); 88-of-122 passing, 72.1 completion percentage, 829 passing yards, 4 TDs, 94.6 passer rating

Justin Jefferson: 1 game; 7 receptions for 70 yards and 2 TDs on 13 targets

Adam Thielen: 3 games; 9 receptions for 134 yards, 1 TD on 16 targets; blocked and returned punt 30 yards for first career TD

Defense

Harrison Smith: 5 games; 26 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 4 TFL, 1 fumble recovery

Danielle Hunter: 2 games; 10 tackles, 1.0 sack, 3 TFL, 1 safety

Everson Griffen: 6 games (5 with Vikings); 18 tackles 6.0 sacks, 6 TFL, returned blocked punt 43 yards for a TD

Eric Kendricks: 3 games; 33 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 2 passes defended

Patrick Peterson: 4 regular-season games with Arizona; 15 tackles, 2 INT, 4 passes defended; returned punt 89 yards for TD in first NFL game

VIKINGS BIG DAYS VS. PANTHERS

Kirk Cousins: 34-of-45 passing (75.6 percent), 307 yards, 3 TDs, passer rating of 115.7 in Minnesota on Nov. 29, 2020

Justin Jefferson: 7 receptions for 70 yards and 2 TDs on 13 targets in Minnesota on Nov. 29, 2020

Adam Thielen: 6 receptions for 105 yards and 1 TD on 12 targets at Carolina on Dec. 10, 2017

Eric Kendricks: 12 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 INT in Minnesota on Nov. 29, 2020

Danielle Hunter: 5 tackles, 1.0 sack for a safety at Carolina on Sept. 25, 2016

VIKINGS-PANTHERS SERIES NOTES

1. The Vikings have a 9-6 record against the Panthers, a series that began in Carolina's second season with a 14-12 win by Minnesota on Oct. 6, 1996.

2. Minnesota set two records for longest returns of a blocked punt in one game against Carolina. Adam Thielen blocked a punt and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown with 7:00 remaining in the first quarter. The record stood until Everson Griffen returned a blocked punt 43 yards with 9:35 left in the second quarter.

3. The Vikings trailed 21-10 in the third quarter last year after a pair of fumble return touchdowns by Jeremy Chinn and didn't reclaim the lead until 46 seconds remained in the contest. Cousins led the Vikings on the go-ahead drive in 1:05 and ended it with a 10-yard touchdown pass. Former Carolina kicker Joey Slye missed a 54-yard field goal with one second remaining.

Longest Vikings winning streak in series: 3 games (Oct. 6, 1996 through Nov. 19, 2000)

Longest Vikings losing streak in series: 3 games (Sept. 9, 2001 through Oct. 30, 2005)

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