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Vikings keys to the game: Week 6 vs. Carolina

The 2-3 Vikings head on the road for a critical matchup against the 3-2 Carolina Panthers Sunday at noon.

MINNEAPOLIS — WHO: Minnesota Vikings vs. Carolina Panthers
WHEN: Sunday, Oct. 17 at 12:00 p.m. CT
WHERE: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC

The 2-3 Vikings head on the road for a critical match up against the 3-2 Carolina Panthers Sunday at noon. 

The last time Minnesota played on the road, the game ended in heartbreak when Greg Joseph missed a potential game-winning field goal in Arizona. He's since redeemed himself with a game winner to sink the Lions last Sunday. 

The Vikings defeated Carolina 28-27 in Week 12 last season, and lead the all-time series 9-6. The Panthers have also lost two straight games after starting the 2021 season 3-0. 

Here are three keys to the game for this weekend's matchup:

  1. Sustain drives and score touchdowns. The Vikings have not scored a touchdown in the second half since Week 1. They also are 27 of 69 on third downs. The Panthers lead the NFL in third down defense. Getting Adam Thielen more involved in the offensive game flow should help. Thielen didn't catch his first pass until the final drive against Detroit, and after starting the 2021 season scoring touchdowns in each of the first three games, he only has 5 catches for 86 yards and no touchdowns since.
  2. Tighten up the run defense. The Vikings continue to get gashed by the run. Sunday, they allowed 108 yards to Detroit, which is the lowest rushing total in a game this season. Minnesota is 22nd in the NFL, allowing 130 yards per game. That defense may have its hands full with the return of running back Christian McCaffrey, who's been out since Week 3 with a hamstring injury. If McCaffrey still isn't able to go, rookie Chuba Hubbard is dangerous too. He rushed for 101 yards against the Eagles last week.
  3. Establish the run. The Vikings are 2-1 this season when rushing for over 100 yards in a game. Oddly enough, both wins featured big performances from Alexander Mattison. Dalvin Cook is still dealing with an ankle injury and his status for Sunday is still in question, so we may see another big dose of Mattison again. The Vikings will need production from the run game to have a balanced, creative offense Sunday. Vikings' head coach Mike Zimmer is committed to running the football above all else, so expect to see a game plan that features the rushing attack. If they're successful with it, Kirk Cousins should have some opportunities in the passing game as well.

The Vikings will try to climb back to .500 Sunday against the Panthers. We'll have all the highlights and postgame coverage from the game on KARE 11.

Make sure to watch the Vikings Extra after Sunday Night Football, and follow me on Twitter @ReggieWilsonTV for all game day updates.