At halftime, the Carolina Panthers were dominating the Minnesota Vikings everywhere except on the scoreboard.
Minnesota made them pay.
A Vikings touchdown drive to open the second half tripled their total yardage and gave them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish in a 22-10 victory Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.
“We didn’t take advantage of opportunities,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “We got beat because we didn’t do what we’re supposed to do, and that’s on us.”
The Panthers (1-2) gave up a safety and a 54-yard punt return for a touchdown by Marcus Sherels in the first half, and led only 10-8 at halftime despite holding the Vikings to five punts and a kneel-down in six possessions. The Panthers led 205-34 in total yardage at that point.
Kyle Rudolph’s touchdown catch and a two-point conversion gave Minnesota (3-0) a 16-10 lead with 9 minutes, 49 seconds to play in the third quarter. Blair Walsh field goals of 28 and 31 yards accounted for the final margin.
The loss was the Panthers’ first at home since Nov. 16, 2014, when Carolina lost to Atlanta 19-17.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who was sacked eight times, finished 21 of 35 for 262 yards and three interceptions.
Three who mattered
Rudolph: He caught seven passes for 70 yards and a touchdown, and seemed to always be open in the second half. Quarterback Sam Bradford targeted him 10 times, and Rudolph had six catches for 66 yards after halftime.
Newton: The Panthers couldn’t contend with the Vikings’ pass rush, but Newton also had trouble finding open receivers as Minnesota continually collapsed the pocket.
Kelvin Benjamin: It’s more what Benjamin didn’t do than what he did. After being targeted 12 times in the opener against Denver and nine more in Week 2 against San Francisco, Benjamin was targeted once Sunday.
▪ Newton held the ball too long – way too long – on a first-quarter safety when he was tackled in the end zone by Danielle Hunter.
▪ After seeing a bunch of high-trajectory “mortar kicks” from the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2, the Panthers and kicker Graham Gano used one of their own in the first quarter.
▪ Safety Marcus Ball’s raised fist was the only apparent national anthem protest on the Panthers sideline.
▪ Andy Lee’s 71-yard free kick was surpassed only by his 38-yard punt, with backspin, that pinned the Vikings deep during the second quarter. He’s a weapon.
▪ The Panthers got a 48-yard field goal from Gano on their opening drive, which was keyed by a 31-yard laser from Newton to Ted Ginn Jr.
▪ Thomas Davis sacked Sam Bradford for a 10-yard loss to kill a first-quarter drive but limped off. Doctors looked at his left knee, but he didn’t miss a play.
▪ The Panthers committed 10 penalties for 65 yards, possibly the most costly of which was a block in the back by Benjamin that negated a long touchdown catch and run by Fozzy Whittaker that would have given Carolina a 17-2 lead.
▪ The Panthers ran for 105 yards on 28 carries, extending their NFL-best streak of games with at least 100 yards rushing to 30 games.
▪ Panthers defensive tackle Vernon Butler left with what Rivera described as a high ankle sprain.
They said it
“It falls on me first and foremost. We’ve got to get things corrected. We’re not playing disciplined and I’m not doing something right, and I’ve got to get that corrected.” – Rivera.
“We had a couple of guys have chances to make plays early on the coverage. Once a guy gets to your second wave of guys, you’re in trouble.” – Rivera, on the punt return for a touchdown.
“I don’t think that’s fair. What happened here was very tragic, and we were hoping to come out and play well. I’m not looking for excuses.” – Rivera, on playing during a tumultuous week in Charlotte.
“We’ve just got to be better.” – Newton, on what happened.