Instant analysis from the Carolina Panthers’ 31-24 victory vs. the Minnesota Vikings:
1. The Panthers’ two best players delivered.
It got a little shaky at the end, when Mike Shula went conservative and Cam Newton got a little erratic. But Newton made up for his off-the-hands-of-Christian McCaffrey interception with a 62-yard run inside the Vikings’ 10 with two minutes left.
Newton was in the midst of a solid, game-managing performance before his interception (which McCaffrey should have caught). But his long run on a zone read helped the Panthers seal it and end the Vikings’ eight-game win streak.
A couple plays after Newton’s run, Jonathan Stewart went up and over from 1 yard out for his third TD of the day.
Meanwhile, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly was at his tackle-making best. No. 59 finished with 14 tackles, tying a season high and becoming the first Panthers player to record 100 tackles or more in each of his first six seasons.
2. Defensive line stepped up big.
After Andrew Sendejo’s interception gave the Vikings a first-and-goal at the 6, it looked like they were primed to grab a late lead. But the Panthers’ defense stuffed them, with Kawann Short sacking Case Keenum on third down to force the Vikings to settle for a game-tying field goal by Kai Forbath.
Short came up with another sack on the Vikings’ next possession, all but dashing Minnesota’s comeback hopes.
It was Short’s first multiple-sack game of the year and was the sixth on the day for the Panthers, including five by the D-line. Among the other notable sacks was Mario Addison’s strip-sack of Keenum, that resulted in a weird fumble that Panthers S Mike Adams recovered about 10 yards down the field.
3. Daryl Worley has quietly been balling out.
Worley is the half of the Panthers’ young cornerback duo whom fans like to hate on. And while Worley is still developing in his second season, his play that last couple of weeks has been stellar.
The former West Virginia standout set the tone defensively by picking off Keenum on the Vikings’ first possession. Though the ball was a little underthrown for Adam Thielen, Worley went up to make a good play on the ball.
It was the first interception by a Panthers’ corner this season (Worley dropped one last week vs. the Saints). It didn’t take Carolina to come up with its second: James Bradberry grabbed a Keenum pass that bounced off Stefon Diggs in the fourth quarter.