Watch Live: Black & Blue Kickoff (Sunday, 10 am, News 46)
CHARLOTTE, NC (AP) – The game between the Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers on Sunday might just come down to who can score a touchdown in the second half.
Both teams have struggled coming out of the locker room at halftime this year.
For the Panthers (3-2), who’ve scored a league-low seven points in the third quarter, the second-half offensive lulls came back to bite them for a second straight week as the Philadelphia Eagles were able to stick around and ultimately erase a 12-point deficit and beat Carolina 21-18.
The Vikings’ problems might be worse as they’ve gone eight quarters — and 24 offensive possessions — after halftime without a touchdown. Unlike Carolina, the Vikings (2-3) were able to hold on last week, beating the winless Detroit Lions 19-17 on a 54-yard field goal by Greg Joseph.
LEFT TACKLE SHUFFLE
Both teams remain a little unsettled at left tackle.
Vikings first-round draft pick Christian Darrisaw had his first game action there last week in a rotation with Rashod Hill. Darrisaw has been behind after undergoing his second core muscle surgery of the year during training camp, but he fared well in pass protection and figures to get more time, if not take over as the starter altogether.
“He had good energy. He was pretty dialed in,” Vikings center Garrett Bradbury said.
Carolina was without regular starting left tackle Cam Erving last week because of a neck injury, but he’s back now. That allows $72 million man Taylor Moton to move back to his more natural position at right tackle.
LIKE HE NEVER LEFT
Defensive end Everson Griffen has his starting spot back with the Vikings after playing his way past D.J. Wonnum on the depth chart. The 11-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowl pick, who re-signed with Minnesota in 2021 after one year elsewhere, had two sacks last week and has four this season.
“I’m very pleased where he is. He looks like the ‘Ev’ of 2017, 2018, and my job is to try to make sure that I keep that the way that it is,” said co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Andre Patterson.
One of the keys to watch in this game will be how Vikings QB Kirk Cousins and the offense perform on third downs.
The Panthers have the league’s top third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert just 25.4% of their opportunities into first downs. The Vikings offense ranks 18th in the league in third down efficiency, converting just 38.1% of the time.
Rhule is gaining more trust in kicker Zane Gonzalez, who connected on field goal attempts of 43, 48 and 50 yards last week against the Eagles, and is now 6 of 8 on the season with one kick blocked because of poor protection up front.
Joseph has been in a groove for Minnesota since missing an extra point and a 37-yard field goal on the final play in a 34-33 loss at Arizona on Sept. 19. The native of South Africa is 7 of 8 on field goals and 5 for 5 on extra points in the last three games. He’s 5 for 5 on field goal attempts from 50 yards or longer.
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