(AP) Panthers breeze past Peterson, Vikings 35-10
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer
Adrian Peterson’s tumultuous week ended with a quiet game. The Carolina Panthers made all the noise.
Cam Newton threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score, and the Panthers romped past Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings 35-10 on Sunday.
Peterson finished with 62 yards on 10 carries and 21 yards on three receptions, but the Vikings (1-4) trailed the whole game and didn’t have much use after halftime for Peterson. The NFL MVP learned on Friday a 2-year-old son of his died in South Dakota of injuries from alleged abuse.
Matt Cassel threw two interceptions, both to Mike Mitchell, and the Panthers (2-3) responded each time with a touchdown.
Whether the team was distracted by the tragedy or not, the Vikings were thoroughly embarrassed on both sides of the ball by a team that had 11 penalties, seven sacks allowed and only six points in defeat the week before.
Newton perhaps was at his best since he was a rookie two years ago, finishing with 242 yards on 20 for 26 and with 30 yards on nine rushes. He threw for scores to Steve Smith and Mike Tolbert in the first half to cap long, commanding drives, and found Brandon LaFell for a 79-yard touchdown to start the third quarter.
Tolbert scored on a short run in the fourth, too, and many of the fans who spent the afternoon booing quickly bolted from their seats to try to beat traffic.
DeAngelo Williams had 64 yards on 17 rushes, and the Panthers finally put together a complete performance after leading at halftime in every game, but stumbling through several stretches of ineffective offense.
Newton had six turnovers in their first four games, but a near-helpless Vikings defense failed to force any after totaling 12 over the first four games.
Peterson talked Friday about turning to football for relief from sorrow, as he’s done several times over a life filled with adverse events, but this couldn’t have been any fun. He rarely found room against a defense that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher for nine straight games.
Peterson said he never had second thoughts about playing and declined to talk specifically about the relationship he had with his son.
With Josh Freeman watching on the sideline, Cassel kept the job over Christian Ponder, but struggled this time. Cassel went 32 for 44 for 241 yards and a late scoring pass to Kyle Rudolph.
Ponder’s biggest problem was turnovers, so when Cassel threw for 248 yards and two touchdowns without a giveaway last game while Ponder sat out because of a broken rib, a permanent change appeared inevitable. After three early completions for first downs, Cassel was hit as he threw and sailed a pass over the head of Greg Jennings right to Mitchell for an easy interception.
Then the Panthers went the other way in 15 plays for a touchdown, aided by a dropped pick-off attempt by Jamarca Sanford and a third-down holding penalty by Chris Cook that wiped out a sack. Newton and the Panthers drained 9 1/2 minutes off the clock on that drive, converting two fourth downs, including the 2-yard toss to Smith.
Newton then used a shovel pass to feed fullback Tolbert, who barged through the middle of Minnesota’s defense for a 10-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead. The Vikings lost linebacker Desmond Bishop on that drive to a right knee injury, and he didn’t return.
Any hope the Vikings had of a comeback crumbled in the opening minute of the second half. LaFell was wide open as he sprinted untouched along the sideline in an apparent coverage mix-up.
Newton found the end zone again on the next drive, a 9-yard scramble after eluding the rush.