Last week the Carolina Panthers lost a game to the Arizona Cardinals that they would rather forget as Daryl Washington, Calais Campbell and Karlos Dansby took advantage of a poor effort from the Panthers' offensive line and made Cam Newton's day miserable en route to a 22-6 victory that was just brutal to watch.
I think it's safe to assume that Carolina wants to avoid that happening again, so they're probably interested in winning this game. Here are five keys for a victory this Sunday against the Vikings that will help them prevent being embarrassed.
Protect Cam Newton
We know two things to be true: the Panthers offensive line is really bad, and the Vikings defensive line is really good. That's not a good combination if your name is Cam Newton. The Vikings will put a lot of pressure on Newton with their studs up front -- Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Sharrif Floyd -- so it's up to the offensive line to do its job and keep Newton upright.
It's really simple: if the Vikings' defensive line is able to get to Newton and disrupt his rhythm with regularity, it's going to be a really long day.
Score real touchdowns instead of Mike Shula Touchdowns
Field goals won't get it done. If the Panthers want to walk away this Sunday with a win, settling for three every time is not going to be good enough. In case you haven't heard, the Vikings have this guy on their team named Adrian Peterson who's really good at scoring touchdowns. If the Panthers plan on scoring more points than the Vikings, they will have to figure out a way to put the ball in the end zone instead of through the uprights.
Speaking of Adrian Peterson...
Don't let Adrian Peterson take over
Okay, we know he's a beast and there's a reason he's the reigning league MVP. They don't call him All Day for nothing. But, if the Panthers want to be 2-3 instead of 1-4 they cannot let him run roughshod over the defense. He's going to get his carries and he's going to get his yards, but the defense needs to limit both as much as they possibly can to give the offense a chance to score enough points to win the game.
Of course, this is definitely easier said than done.
Expose Minnesota's weaknesses on defense
We know that Minnesota has a good defensive front four, but their defense isn't unstoppable. They can be beaten if the Panthers can expose their weaknesses. Minnesota is tied for 29th in the league in passing defense, so if Carolina can find a way to attack their secondary and move the ball down field through the air they have a chance to put a lot of points on the board, which would greatly increase their chances of winning.
One way the Panthers can do this is to move Steve Smith to the slot, as we discussed earlier this week here on CSR. By moving Smith to the slot and putting Ginn and LaFell on the outside, it gives the Panthers more options to move the ball and creates matchup nightmares for the Vikings' defense. Finding a way to set up a Smith vs. nickel corner matchup plays heavily into the Panthers' favor, so they need to find creative ways to make this happen and use it to their advantage.
Don't fall apart in the second half
I know, this should be common sense. Unfortunately, it's not. The Panthers have a horrible habit of playing well in the first half of the game and then going into total meltdown mode in the second half. We saw it last week against Arizona. The Panthers led 6-3 at halftime and then looked like a completely different team when they came back out on the field for the second half. The simply cannot afford to do this if they want to win games, and this week against the Vikings is no different. If Carolina plays the second half of this game the way they did their last game they will be 1-4 when the clock hits zero, and that's not a good place to be at all.
That's it for this week's Friday Five. If Carolina can follow this road map against the Vikings on Sunday they should be able to claim their second victory of the season and get closer to that elusive .500 record they've been chasing since Week 2 of last season.