Instant analysis from the Carolina Panthers’ 22-10 loss to Minnesota:
Attacking, physical defenses continue to give Panthers’ trouble.
The offensive line allowed Cam Newton to get sacked eight times, the second-most in his six seasons. Newton held the ball too long a couple of times, but both tackles struggled against the Vikings’ edge rushers. If this was a preview of the NFC championship game, the Panthers better come up with a better plan.
Where was Kelvin Benjamin?
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Newton targeted Benjamin 20 times in the first two games, but only once Sunday – with 2:29 remaining in the game. The Vikings rolled a safety Benjamin’s way a lot of the game, and a couple of times he was open on plays when Newton was under pressure and didn’t see him. Still, offensive coordinator Mike Shula has to find ways to get Benjamin the ball.
Special teams miscues hurt again.
A week after Ted Ginn had a muffed kick at the 2, the Panthers gave up a 54-yard punt return for a touchdown to Marcus Sherels. Carolina dominated the first half, but Sherels’ return allowed the Vikings to head to halftime trailing 10-8 at the half.