Panthers host 10-2 Vikings in tough matchup

Panthers host 10-2 Vikings in tough matchup

After sitting his two-time All-Pro to protect his surgically-repaired foot from the New Orleans turf, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said on Wednesday that Olsen will not be held to a "pitch count" on Sunday.

Three snaps later, Stewart burst up the middle for a 60-yard touchdown run. Newton leads all quarterbacks with 89 carries for 515 rushing yards, almost edging Jonathan Stewart's 531 rushing yards to lead Carolina. Addison was credited with a sack, and the Panthers took over at the Vikings 31.

Center Pat Elflein is listed as questionable because of a shoulder injury that limited him in practice all week. Matt Kalil, on the other hand, has basically been Matt Kalil.

Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP, is the first quarterback the Vikings need to account for this season while preparing to stop the opponent's rushing threat. Nothing was much different from Week 12 where Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan beat him like a rug.

The Vikings defense gave the offense another scoring opportunity with 2:33 left in the first half, and Minnesota added a 22-yard field goal by Forbath after the Vikings gained 64 yards on 11 plays.

The Panthers are in nearly a must-win situation with Atlanta (8-5) breathing down their necks for the sixth seed in the NFC. They've found a ton of success in that regard lately-first in the National Football League in both rushing yards per game and yards per rush over the last three weeks-and know how important it will be not only in moving the ball, but in controlling the time of possession battle.

Before an injury-plagued 2017 season, Carolina's Greg Olsen was one of the most risky tight ends in football. But a breakout campaign of sorts from career backup Case Keenum has these Vikings moving through the air. Kyle Rudolph and Adam Thielen had rare drops. Thielen was ruled to not have control of the ball in the end zone. If the Panthers offense are in third-and-long a lot, I don't like their chances of being very successful. The biggest difference in this game was the play of the two offensive lines.

"They exploited some mismatches we had a year ago and got after myself a lot", Newton said.

Even with three of their final four games coming at home, Carolina doesn't have the easiest of stretches ahead.

Carolina will host the Green Bay Packers next Sunday, while the Vikings will try to get back to their winning ways against the Cincinnati Bengals. He did hook up for two scores to Devin Funchess and Christian McCaffrey, but once the Saints established their running game on the Panthers defense it was clear they wouldn't have enough to keep up.

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