Last September, the Vikings sacked Cam Newton eight times in what might have been one of their more impressive victories of the 2016 season, when they ended the Carolina Panthers' 14-game win streak at home and took down the defending NFC champions.
But it was Newton's run that turned out to be the play of the game. Thielen was pretty quiet before exploding for a 52-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to bring the Vikings within three points.
Newton joked after the game that he got tackled on objective.
"They are very, very comfortable in their scheme", Newton said.
"I watched it here for years with [former Panthers left tackle] Jordan Gross. So I felt like, hey, let me flip this vehicle back into third gear".
Aside from the monstrous gains, the Vikings gave up 94 yards on 34 carries, an average of 2.8 yards per attempt. Newton put the ball in Stewart's gut but read Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen crashing down. "And for him to pop something that like, that was huge".
Stewart recorded just his 2nd 100-yard rushing game of the season while reaching the end zone 3 times, a new career-high.
What could work in Carolina's favor is Minnesota's struggles on third-and-long situations. He finished with 103 rushing yards. Forbath's kick had been set up after an interception was returned to the Carolina 6 by safety Andrew Sendejo. Between the pressure he just faced against the Saints and the eight sacks he absorbed from the Vikings defense previous year, Newton might be doing cartwheels during Sunday's warmups in addition to his weekly handshakes.
The Vikings (10-3) still could have clinched the division with losses by both the Packers and Lions, but the Packers rallied to beat the Browns in overtime and the Lions held off the Buccaneers late.
The Kansas City Chiefs won the battle of the AFC West divisional clash with a 26-15 success over the Oakland Raiders. Reporters said that Reiff left the locker room after the game in a walking boot, declining comment on the injury. Stewart scored twice more on the day.
FINALLY, A PICK: It took 13 games, but the Panthers finally got at an interception from their starting cornerbacks.
Vikings quarterback Case Keenum was outplaying Newton for most of the ball game.
"Hopefully now everyone will stop talking about it", Bradberry quipped.
But aside from the pair of 60-plus-yard runs, Minnesota's defense was essentially on par with its current performance this season. The Panthers shifted four offensive linemen, including left tackle Matt Kalil, to the right side of center Ryan Kalil and ran that way.
It's unclear when Rudolph got hurt.
"This is where you want to be, point-blank", Stewart said.
Also, Vikings reserve linebacker Emmanuel Lamur suffered a right foot injury. But he was proud of the Panthers' resilience and their ability to come through at the end.