A day after being eliminated from the 2009 playoffs the Panthers turned in a spirited performance to beat the NFC North division-clinching Vikings. The Panthers scored 20 4th quarter points to turn a 7-6 deficit into a comfortable and unlikely victory. The Panther heroes on the night were many but we have to start with QB Matt Moore. Moore outplayed the legend Brett Favre by throwing for 299 yards, 3 TDs with no INTs. He started with a shaky first half but then caught fire as Steve Smith ripped the Viking secondary for 157 yards on 9 receptions including 1 TD.
I nice as it was to see the offense finally break out of its funk I also enjoyed (maybe even more) seeing a dominant performance from the defense. They held the NFL's #6 offense to seven first half points and only 247 total yards. Better yet they held all-World RB Adrian Peterson to 35 yards on 12 carries. That's less than 3 yards per carry! It has become very obvious over the past couple weeks that the defense is finally grasping Ron Meeks Tampa 2 system and is now playing with confidence and emotion.
Given the Panthers are out of the playoffs and only stand at 6-8 I find myself cautious about proclaiming this a total victory so I'll let a Vikings fan from The Daily Norseman tell it like it is:
Some might call this a trap game, and some might say the Vikings got complacent after clinching an NFC North title earlier in the day. I'll call it something else: Getting crushed. Don't make excuses for this Vikings team, because they don't deserve it. I don't care that the field was in lousy condition, I don't care that the game was outdoors, and I don't care about what was happening around the division. The Vikings got killed out there.
I couldn't have said it any better. Let's honor the Panther heroes:
- QB Matt Moore 21 for 33 299 yards, 3 passing TDs, No INTs
- RB Jonathan Stewart put up 109 yards on 25 carries and a TD. He also caught 2 passes for 14 yards a TD. Stewart carried the load after DeAngelo Williams left in the first half with an ankle injury
- WR Steve Smith had 9 receptions for 157 yards and a TD and just hurt the Vikings all game. From his post-game interview it looks like we can than #22 who apparently took it upon himself to talk trash to Smitty and ended up eating his trash.
- DE Julius Peppers is showing only a single tackle and 1 sack in the NFL.com box score but he terrorized Favre all night. The announcers mentioned they think LT Bryant McKinnie got benched mid-game for repeatedly getting bulled over by Peppers. He earned his 7 figure game check tonight and I bet Brett Favre would agree.
- LB James Anderson led the team with 9 tackles and two assists and a sack. Anderson played fast and helped shut down Adrian Peterson.
- SS Chris Harris added an INT to his season total, one that ended the Vikings night
- RB Terrell Sutton only got three touches on the night, 2 rushes and 1 pass but the UDFA converted a couple key third downs and was money picking up the Viking blitz. We have a diamond in the rough here my friends.
Worth mentioning is that by gaining over a 100 yards rushing the Panthers Stewart broke the Vikings 36 game streak of not allowing a 100 yard rusher. Stewart not only showed the power he is known for but also demonstrated the quickness and cutting ability on inside runs that left Vikings defenders diving at air.
In the end this game leaves the Panthers thinking they could finish the season on a winning note and who knows, maybe even level their record at 8-8. I for one am much more hopeful about the remainder of this season...and next.
How is everyone feeling about this one?
The Panthers game ball for the victory over the Vikings should go to:
QB Matt Moore (194 votes)
RB Jonathan Stewart (15 votes)
DE Julius Peppers (110 votes)
WR Steve Smith (64 votes)
LB James Anderson (4 votes)
387 total votes