CHARLOTTE — Special teams helped the Vikings sway momentum and topple the Panthers on Sunday, ending Carolina's home win streak that dated to 2014.
Marcus Sherels returned a punt 54 yards for his franchise-record fourth career punt return touchdown and the Vikings first touchdown of the day.
Click here to watch a replay of the Vikings victory over the Carolina Panthers with NFL Game Pass.
He also hustled to down a punt by Jeff Locke deep in Panthers territory that started the pendulum in the direction of Minnesota in a 22-10 victory.
The downing of the punt led to a safety when Danielle Hunter sacked Cam Newton for the Vikings (3-0) first points of the game. It was the third game in a row with a sack by Hunter and the first safety recorded by the Vikings since 2011 (Jared Allen). Linval Joseph also extended his streak of games with a sack to three to open the season. The Vikings totaled 8.0 sacks of Newton and intercepted the reigning NFL MVP three times.
Everson Griffen battled through an illness that caused him to miss some action, and recorded 3.0 sacks. Anthony Barr, Harrison Smith and Brian Robison also tallied sacks.
Kyle Rudolph caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Sam Bradford, and Jerick McKinnon followed with a successful run on a 2-point conversion to give the Vikings a 16-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. The Vikings were able to match Rudolph against linebacker Shaq Thompson on a wheel route. Rudolph made a terrific play with the ball in flight, plucking it out of the air and planting both feet in the end zone.
The Vikings entered the game as underdogs, having placed Adrian Peterson and Matt Kalil on injured reserve earlier in the week. Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata filled in for Peterson, and T.J. Clemmings made his first career start at left tackle.
Minnesota also lost left guard Alex Boone to a hip injury during the game. Boone, the Vikings biggest offseason acquisition in free agency was replaced by Jeremiah Sirles.
The Vikings were outgained 205 to 34 yards in the first half but only trailed 10-8 at the break. They mixed runs and passes in the second half, however, and netted 177 yards while allowing a net of 101.
Trae Waynes picked off a deep pass by Newton to keep the Panthers at bay before halftime. Terence Newman intercepted Newton late in the third quarter, recording his 41st career interception. Defensive tackle Tom Johnson recorded his first career interception in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota's defense held an opponent scoreless in the third quarter for a third straight week, allowing the Vikings to put together 22 straight points. It was the second road game this season in which the Vikings have gone on a scoring run of 20-plus points.
The Vikings held the prolific Panthers offense scoreless for the final 50-plus minutes of the game.
The Panthers have taken a 10-0 lead with 5:20 left in the first quarter. Newton scored on a keeper from 3 yards out. The critical play of the drive was a 27-yard completion to Corey Brown to convert third-and-12.
Notes: The Vikings have now won six regular-season games in a row. … Sherels has returned a punt for a touchdown in four of the past five seasons. All four return scores by the Minnesota native have occurred in road games. … Rudolph (seven receptions for 70 yards) came close to matching the career-high nine catches against the Panthers in 2013. The Panthers last home loss was 19-17 to the Falcons on Nov. 16, 2014. The reeled off 14 in a row (including playoffs).
View images as the Vikings take on the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium Sunday.