CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Minnesota Vikings keep finding ways to overcome injuries —and keep finding ways to win football games.
Sam Bradford threw a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph, Marcus Sherels returned a punt for a score and the Vikings snapped the Carolina Panthers’ 14-game home winning streak 22-10 on Sunday.
The Vikings put the clamps on Cam Newton, intercepting the league’s reigning MVP three times and getting eight sacks, one of those resulting in a safety by Danielle Hunter. The eight sacks were the second-most ever against Newton.
“We have a great team — the best team I have been a part of,” said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who had three sacks. “We come from every area on the field and we get sacks.”
Said Newton: “They were dictating to us after they got the momentum.”
The Vikings improved 3-0 despite losing running back Adrian Peterson and offensive tackle Matt Kalil to injuries last week. They lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason.
The Panthers were averaging 42 points per game in their last three home games, but could do little after bolting to a 10-0 lead. The Vikings held Carolina wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess without a catch.
“For him not to have any touches is baffling,” Newton said of Benjamin. “We have to find ways” to get him the ball.
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said the Vikings focus was on shutting down Benjamin.
“We just knew where Benjamin was the whole time,” Munnerlyn said. “Funchess, we weren’t worried about him. It was Kelvin Benjamin. Me personally, I think No. 17 (Funchess) is not that good, so we weren’t really worried about him.”
Benjamin said the Vikings’ pressure on Newton helped take him out of the game.
Bradford improved to 2-0 as the Vikings starter, completing 18 of 28 passes for 171 yards. With Peterson injured, Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon combined for 70 yards rushing on 22 carries. Rudolph had seven catches for 70 yards, including a 15-yard TD catch to put the Vikings ahead for good in the early in the third quarter.
HOME LOSS: It was Carolina’s first home loss since Nov. 16, 2014.
“If you want to be a playoff team you have to win at home,” Panthers offensive tackle Michael Oher said.
Carolina only led 10-8 at halftime despite outgaining the Vikings 205-34 in the first half and limiting Minnesota to two first downs.
PROTESTS OUTSIDE: Outside the stadium about 100 people gathered before the game to stage a peaceful protest over the police shooting of a 43-year-old black man last week.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the events didn’t affect the team’s play.
“When we are here, we practice, we do the things we are supposed to do. We got out and we answered the questions,” Rivera said. “What happened here was very tragic, and what we were hoping to do was be able to come out and put that aside. We just didn’t play very well. I am not looking for excuses.”
BY THE NUMBERS:
Vikings: Asiata got the start at running back but McKinnon was more productive back with 45 yards on 16 carries.
Panthers: Cameron Artis-Payne started over Fozzy Whittaker with Jonathan Stewart (hamstring) out of the lineup and ran for 47 yards on 12 carries. Whittaker only got five carries and had 22 yards rushing after running for 100 yards last week against San Francisco.
SAFETY FIRST: Hunter beat Michael Oher to sack Newton in the end zone in the first quarter for Minnesota’s first safety since Jared Allen had one on Dec. 4, 2011. Hunter has 6 1/2 sacks in his last seven games.
SHERELS RETURN: Sherels accounted for the Vikings only touchdown of the first half, taking an Andy Lee punt near midfield and cutting across the grain for a 54-yard touchdown return.
BENJAMIN’S BLUNDERS: Benjamin was called for two penalties in the first half, including a block in the back that nullified a 56-yard TD reception by Whittaker.
INJURIES: Panthers first-round draft pick Vernon Butler left the game with a right ankle sprain in the third quarter and did not return.