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Panthers vs Vikings: 3 plays to love, 3 plays to hate

These key plays swung momentum and decided the Panthers 31-24 home win against the Minnesota Vikings (who entered the game at 10-2), putting Carolina’s record at 9-4.  

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Plays to Love, Plays to Hate (aka "P2L, P2H") looks at the most significant plays in swinging momentum and impacting the eventual outcome of the game. There is always plenty to hate about NFL officiating, so we will only focus on the plays on the field, not the refs.

Three plays to love

1st Quarter 11:06 – Panthers 0, Vikings 0. Panthers ball 3rd-and-1 at CAR 40

The Situation: After Daryl Worley ended the Vikings first drive with an interception, the Panthers offense took the field for the first time and faced a potential three-and-out.

The Play: In an interesting play design, Carolina had four offensive linemen to the right of the center. Jonathan Stewart took a handoff between the right guard and tackle just as a gaping hole was opened for him. J-Stew sprinted untouched for a 60-yard touchdown. The heroes of this play, however, were Daryl Williams, Andrew Norwell, Trai Turner, and Taylor Moton who teamed up with spectacular blocking to spring Stewart for the touchdown. This play set the tone early that the Panthers offense could strike quickly and allowed Carolina to avoid playing from behind throughout the game.

3rd Quarter 8:51 – Panthers 14, Vikings 13. Panthers ball 3rd-and-7 at MIN 18

The Situation: The Panthers took the opening possession of the second half on a long drive that appeared to be stalling in the red zone. On 3rd-and-7, Cam Newton made magic happen.

The Play: Cam started in shotgun and felt pressure from wide rushes to both his right and his left. Just as both defensive ends dove for him from opposite sides, Cam jumped backward to evade the sack. Now facing even more pressure, Cam wound up and threw a bomb toward the end zone while still retreating. Cam’s amazing elusiveness bought just enough time for Devin Funchess to get open in the end zone and haul in a touchdown pass for a 21-13 Panthers lead.

4th Quarter 2:33 – Panthers 24, Vikings 24. Panthers ball 2nd-and-5 at CAR 30

The Situation: After squandering an 11-point lead in the blink of an eye, the Panthers were choking. The game was suddenly tied and Minnesota had all of the momentum as the two-minute warning approached. But fortunately for the Panthers, they had the ball. And the Panthers also have Cam Newton.

The Play: I’m not even going to try to describe it. Just watch it. Cam. 62 yards. Game. Over!

Three plays to hate

2nd Quarter 8:46 – Panthers 14, Vikings 7. Vikings ball 3rd-and-3 at MIN 33

The Situation: The Panthers defense had looked good, surrendering only seven points halfway through the second quarter. Steve Wilks then dialed up a perfect blitz on second down.

The Play: Captain Munnerlyn came untouched on a weakside blitz and had a clear path to Case Keenum. But Munnerlyn went high on Keenum just as the Vikings quarterback saw the pressure, and Keenum ducked under the potential sack. After eluding Captain, Keenum hit Kyle Rudolph for a 13-yard gain to extend the drive. Instead of 3rd-and-long followed by a likely punt, Minnesota now had a new set of downs. The drive ended with a Vikings field goal, trimming the Panthers lead to 14-10. This is a play Captain just has to make.

4th Quarter 5:47 – Panthers 24, Vikings 13. Vikings ball 2nd-and-4 at MIN 48

The Situation: Carolina had an 11-point lead with less than six minutes left. A defensive stop here could virtually put the game on ice.

The Play: The Panthers secondary came out in a soft zone. Adam Thielen was able to run a deep seam route and find an opening between Luke Kuechly and Captain Munnerlyn. Keenum threw a perfect pass which Thielen hauled in as he came across the field from left-to-right. Thomas Davis was coming toward Thielen from the opposite direction with a full head of steam. On these types of plays, TD normally destroys the receiver. But on this one, Thielen gave a subtle juke and Davis whiffed on the tackle. Thielen then broke free and sprinted 52 yards for a shocking touchdown. It was baffling to see TD miss this tackle so badly. After a successful two-point conversion, Minnesota now only trailed 24-21.

4th Quarter 4:47 – Panthers 24, Vikings 21. Panthers ball 3rd-and-5 at CAR 30

The Situation: The Panthers were still reeling after Thielen’s long touchdown. To make matters worse, Carolina’s offense was sputtering and had picked up just one first down over their last four drives. The Panthers were now facing yet another three-and-out.

The Play: Chrisitan McCaffrey ran a quick slant route and got two steps ahead of his defender. Cam threw for CMC for what should have been an easy first down, but Newton threw the ball too high. The pass skipped off McCaffrey’s fingers and into the waiting hands of Andrew Sendejo for a devastating interception. The Vikings safety returned the pick down to the Carolina six yard line, but the Panthers defense came up big to force a field goal and a 24-24 tie.

Closing it out and summing it up

What a huge victory! After a confidence-shaking loss to the New Orleans Saints last week, the Panthers took down a 10-2 Vikings team which had been on an eight-game win streak. This game had a “make or break” feel to it. A Panthers loss here may have doomed their season. Now after having emerged with a clutch win, Carolina still controls their playoff destiny.

There were so many other big plays I wanted to include from this game, but just didn’t have enough space, for example:

  • Mike Adams breaking up a potential touchdown late in the second quarter.
  • Devin Funchess converting on 2nd-and-17 early in the third, setting up his own touchdown to end the drive.
  • Mario Addison forcing a strip-sack in the third quarter which led to a Panthers field goal.
  • Julius Peppers forcing a sack in the third quarter, pushing the Vikings out of field goal range and causing them to punt.
  • James Bradberry’s fourth quarter interception on a bobbled screen pass.
  • Bradberry breaking up a potential fourth quarter touchdown on 2nd-and-Goal by knocking the ball away WITH HIS ELBOW! Then, on the next play, Kawann Short sacked Case Keenum to force a field goal and a 24-24 tie instead of Minnesota taking a late lead.

There we so many clutch plays in this one, and that’s exactly what the Panthers needed to knock off the hottest team in the NFL.

Major props to Daryl Worley, James Bradberry, and Mario Addison for forcing turnovers. Carolina’s defense had not generated many interceptions or fumbles coming into this game, and having those extra possessions made a huge difference.

The Panthers now sit at 9-4 and control their own destiny as they prepare to welcome the Green Bay Packers in Week 15.

“P2L, P2H” season leaders

Plays to Love:

8 PTL – Cam Newton, Devin Funchess

3 PTL – Christian McCaffrey, Julius Peppers, Luke Kuechly, Mario Addison, Mike Adams, Mike Shula

2 PTL – Captain Munnerlyn, Daryl Williams, Kawann Short, Kyle Love, Trai Turner, Wes Horton

1 PTL – Andrew Norwell, Charles Johnson, Curtis Samuel, Daryl Worley, Ed Dickson, Fozzy Whittaker, Graham Gano, Jonathan Stewart, JULIO JONES (ATL), Kaelin Clay, Matt Kalil, Russell Shepard, Shaq Thompson, Thomas Davis, Taylor Moton, Tyler Larsen

Plays to Hate:

7 PTH – Cam Newton

4 PTH – Jonathan Stewart, Luke Kuechly

3 PTH – Captain Munnerlyn, Mike Adams, Ron Rivera

2 PTH – Curtis Samuel, Devin Funchess, Kevon Seymour, Kurt Coleman, Shaq Thompson

1 PTH - Andrew Gachkar, Christian McCaffrey, Daryl Williams, Daryl Worley, Graham Gano, James Bradberry, Kaelin Clay, Matt Kalil, Michael Palardy, Mike Shula, Russell Shepard, Thomas Davis, Trai Turner, Tyler Larsen


Which Play to Love had the biggest impact on the Panthers victory?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    1st Quarter - Perfect blocking springs J-Stew for 60-yd TD
    (41 votes)
  • 12%
    3rd Quarter - Cam escapes pressure then finds Funch for TD
    (45 votes)
  • 77%
    4th Quarter - Cam rips off 62-yard run late in the game to set up the winning TD
    (289 votes)
375 votes total Vote Now