Once the Minnesota Vikings and defensive tackle Linval Joseph began attacking Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on Sunday, Joseph said he knew what to expect.
“It’s like blood in the water,” Joseph said. “Once you taste that blood, you’ve got to have it.”
And in Minnesota’s 22-10 beatdown of the Panthers Sunday – when the Vikings notched eight sacks and three interceptions of Newton – there was a feeding frenzy.
“Once it gets started,” Joseph said, “you can’t stop it.”
Carolina scored 10 points in the first quarter – a field goal and a short touchdown run by Newton – before Minnesota’s defense adjusted.
With a minute and change left in the first quarter, the Panthers were backed up on their 5. Newton took the snap and retreated into the end zone, holding the ball for three, four, five seconds.
That was all the time he had.
Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter gunned through the left side of the offensive line and brought Newton down in the end zone.
Sack. Safety. Frenzy.
From that point, Minnesota’s defense smothered everything the Panthers tried. Carolina recorded 113 yards of offense in the first quarter, 193 more in the final three.
“If (the defensive line) can get to him fast enough and get him down,” Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said, “it helps us a lot because we don’t have to cover that long.”
Even with those missed opportunities, Carolina still had a chance. But with the Panthers down 19-10 early in the fourth quarter, defensive end Everson Griffen sacked Newton again, and two plays later, linebacker Anthony Barr delivered another.
The Panthers punted to the Vikings, who then took almost six minutes off the clock and tacked on another field goal. When Carolina got the ball back, they were down two scores with five minutes left and a failing offensive line.
Griffen’s three-sack performance was the talk of the locker room when the game finally ended. His teammates mobbed him, then the media did, and then his teammates again.
He may not have been the only defensive lineman wreaking havoc Sunday, but his performance was a telling reminder of the unit’s overall dominance.
“He’s a hell of a player,” Joseph said of Griffen. “He delivered when it was time to deliver.”
Brendan Marks: @brendanrmarks