Counting down the Panthers who mattered most in clutch win over Vikings

Matt Kalil

Counting down the Panthers who mattered most in clutch win over Vikings

It was ugly. It was uncharacteristic.

But a pair of big plays against their run defense was a key reason why the Vikings saw their eight-game win streak snapped with a 31-24 road loss to the Panthers.

Case Keenum threw two touchdowns for 280 yards in a losing cause for the visitors, including a 52-yard pass for wide receiver Adam Thielen, as the 10-3 Vikings suffered defeat for the first time in nine matches.

The Vikings' biggest stop on defense came late in the game, when Andrew Sendejo picked off Cam Newton and returned the ball to the 6-yard line, but another failed Vikings red zone trip forced Minnesota to settle for a field goal.

The quarterback kept a zone-read on second-and-five before rumbling 62 yards to the Minnesota 8.

The first: A 60-yard touchdown rush by Jonathan Stewart, the longest play of the game and Stewart's longest rush of a hard season for the ball carrier. With that said, let's take a look back at three takeaways from the loss. Rashod Hill took over at left tackle and Jeremiah Sirles moved to right tackle during the fourth quarter. The injury slid starting left guard Nick Easton to his old spot as center and backup lineman Jeremiah Sirles started at left guard. However, a makeshift offensive line was a recipe for disaster against a ferocious defensive front of the Panthers.

Bills rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman started in place of the injured Tyrod Taylor and was 5-of-10 passing for 57 yards and a touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin before leaving the game in the third quarter to be evaluated for a concussion. Reporters said that Reiff left the locker room after the game in a walking boot, declining comment on the injury. The Eagles now hold a half-game lead in the conference heading into their showdown with the 9-3 Los Angeles Rams later Sunday.

Minnesota remodeled its offensive line this offseason and the results have mostly been excellent. His first pass was in the front-right corner of the endzone and bounced off of his chance.

Minnesota couldn't manage a first down on its final drive and turned the ball over on downs. The Detroit Lakes native played his college ball at Minnesota State and has gone from an undrafted free agent to a bona fide star. Instead, they trailed 14-13. It was his second time this season he had more than 100 yards rushing, just seven yards shy of his 110 yards in 17 carries in a win over Miami on November 13. Stewart gained 103 yards on 16 carries.

Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart (28) scores the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers running back had run for just three touchdowns all season coming into Sunday and set a career high with the three scores on the ground. They could do themselves a favor and get better wild card positioning, even if they're unable to ever catch the Saints.

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