The Vikings did their best to choke this one away late, but Carolina ultimately choked bigger, giving the Vikings a hard-fought 24-21 victory. Christian Ponder matched fellow rookie sensation Cam Newton blow-for-blow, and once again showed poise especially on third down. Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe and Devin Aromashodu all chipped in with big plays late in the game to help the Vikings score 10 unanswered points and grab a three point lead with time running down. Carolina seemed poised to snatch the victory away at the end of the fourth after yet another Vikings secondary breakdown allowed a huge fourth down conversion, but luck would not be on the Panthers’ side this day. Carolina suffered a holding call on a Cam Newton run that would’ve given them first-and-goal on the 6, then watched Olindo Mare miss a chip shot field goal.
Ponder finished with solid numbers, completing 18-of-28 passes for 236 yards and a TD. Adrian Peterson got off to a slow start but benefited from a more physical Vikings approach in the second half, and finished with 86 yards and a TD on 21 carries. Peterson also got involved in the passing game, catching 5 for 76 yards and a TD. Percy Harvin too showed his versatility, running for 16 yards and a score and catching 4 balls for 58, including a huge 11-yarder on third down to keep alive the Vikings’ final field goal scoring drive. Harvin and Peterson both toughed their way through the late stages of the game despite nagging injuries.
As has been their habit in recent weeks, the Vikings’ defensive backs put the team in some bad situations over the course of the day. Husain Abdullah had yet another glaring breakdown, failing to get a jam on Greg Olsen at the line and allowing the TE to get behind him for a 39-yard TD. Abdullah would make up for this mistake later with a couple of big tackles. Asher Allen was also exposed on more than one occasion by Steve Smith, who finished with an even 100 yards on seven catches. The Vikings did get good defensive efforts from Erin and E.J. Henderson, and another sterling game from Jared Allen, who contributed a key sack-and-fumble, and added a bat-down and a fumble recovery.
It was not a great defensive effort overall, but the Vikings did at least avoid being completely mauled by Cam Newton as many expected they would. The Vikes’ best defense on this day was the offense, which was able to extend drives with big third down conversions, ran the ball effectively for stretches, and won the time-of-possession battle. As we’ve learned this season, the less the Vikings’ injury-riddled, over-matched defense has to be on the field, the better off they will be.