Tom Sorensen

Can Fozzy Whittaker’s Carolina Panthers beat the Vikings?

So far, Carolina Panthers running back Fozzy Whittaker (43) has given the team all it needs.
So far, Carolina Panthers running back Fozzy Whittaker (43) has given the team all it needs. AP

I might be alone on this one. But I thought the Carolina Panthers played well Sunday in their 46-27 victory Sunday against San Francisco. I hear fans say that Carolina won’t beat the Minnesota Vikings (who come to Charlotte Sunday) if they play like they did against the 49ers. But how do they know? If the Vikings play the way they did in their opener against Tennessee, they wouldn’t have beaten the Green Bay Packers last week.

Did the Panthers make mistakes against San Francisco? They collected them.

They needed time to warm up. But when they did there was the sense that every time they needed a play, a first down or a touchdown, they would attain it. I kept waiting for Greg Olsen to be caught on his 78-yard touchdown. Yet I swear that Olsen pulled away from defenders as if he was a giant Ted Ginn Jr. Olsen still hasn’t been caught. After Olsen came to Carolina for a third-round pick in 2011, a fantastic trade for the Panthers, I watched him catch passes from a machine that flings footballs hard and consistently and at odd angles. Olsen was like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. Making touch catches looked easy for him. They still do.

As effective as quarterback Cam Newton and his receivers are, however, the Panthers need to run Sunday. Minnesota’s defense is as good as theirs (although the offense isn’t close). Do you trust Fozzy Whittaker to be the lead back?

Despite the ultimate insult, being dumped by the Cleveland Browns in May of 2014, the Panthers picked Whittaker up two months later. After an exhibition at Bank of America Stadium that season in which he’d played well, I went to the locker room to talk to him. The peripheral players – and Whittaker was peripheral then – had their own locker room. That room is about the size of Cam Newton’s locker.

I waded in, and the room was so crowded and unwieldy I thought guys might ask me for change. Not many guests come their way. Whittker’s neighbors brought him to me, and we got to talk in the big locker room. He’s a cool guy to talk to, and a cool guy to have on your team. Whatever the Panthers have required, Whittaker has thus far supplied.

I like Whittaker and the Panthers to beat the Vikings by 9.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen