News & Analysis

MIN-CAR grades: Vikings defense continues to shine in win over Panthers

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 25: Trae Waynes #26 of the Minnesota Vikings intercepts a pass intended for Ted Ginn #19 of the Carolina Panthers during the game at Bank of America Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Minnesota Vikings 22, Carolina Panthers 10

Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from the Vikings’ Week 3 win over the Panthers:

Carolina Panthers

Quarterback grade: Cam Newton, 51.4

Vikings secondary shouts down Newton

Newton was under duress for most of the afternoon as the Vikings defense continues to wreak havoc for opposing offenses in the passing game. A combination of pressures given up by the offensive line and coverage down the field forcing Newton to hold the ball made it difficult for Newton all day. He made several poor decisions with guys around his feet, throwing three interceptions. On the day Newton was sacked eight times, with three of those being pinned on Newton. The Vikings showed various blitz looks all day, holding Newton to 6-for-11 for 61 yards and 3 sacks on plays they blitzed.

Top offensive grades:

RT Mike Remmers, 85.7
RG Trai Turner, 81.2
FB Mike Tolbert, 79.7
LG Andrew Norell, 76.1
WR Corey Brown, 73.3

Panthers unable to get Benjamin involved

The most glaring problem for the offense was the lack of involvement from its biggest playmaker, Kelvin Benjamin. Coverage was tight throughout the day and Benjamin was targeted just once and couldn’t haul it in. While there were a lot of sacks given up on the day, none of those were coming from Mike Remmers’ side. Remmers gave up two hurries but was relatively stout in protection and in the run game. The majority of the trouble on the offensive line came from Michael Oher, who gave up 2 sacks and 5 quarterback hurries getting beat consistently on Cam Newton’s blind side.

Top defensive grades:

LB Luke Kuechly, 90.0
CB James Bradberry, 80.8
DE Mario Addison, 80.2
DT Kawann Short, 79.5
DE Charles Johnson, 78.4

Kuechly shines yet again

LB Luke Kuechly is currently our highest-graded linebacker for the second season in a row, and turned in an excellent performance against the Vikings. Seven of his 12 tackles resulted in a defensive stop, and he led the team with an 88.6 run-defense grade. Kuechly was beaten in coverage for a couple of first downs by TE Kyle Rudolph, but earned a positive coverage grade after allowing six receptions for 56 yards on eight targets, with a pass defended. Rookie cornerback James Bradberry did an excellent job on emerging WR Stefon Diggs, limiting him to three catches for 34 yards on six attempts, and adding a pass defense of his own. All four of Carolina’s starting defensive linemen earned positive run defense grades, led by DT Kawann Short (83.3) and DE Charles Johnson (83.1).

Minnesota Vikings

Quarterback grade: Sam Bradford, 74.4

Bradford wins through conservative attack

Minnesota’s passing attack was conservative in this game, despite their inability to move the ball on the ground. Bradford attempted just seven passes that traveled more than 10 yards in the air, finishing 5-for-7 for 78 yards and a touchdown on those plays. TE Kyle Rudolph was Bradford’s top target in the game, catching seven passes for 70 yards and a touchdown on eight targets. Bradford was not afraid to target Kuechly, completing 4-of-5 passes for 45 yards to Rudolph with Kuechly in primary coverage. Carolina sent extra rushers at Bradford just six times, but were able to generate pressure on twelve snaps, sacking him twice. Bradford finished 4-of-10 for 31 yards under pressure.

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Top offensive grades:

TE Kyle Rudolph, 83.3
FB Zach Line, 80.1
C Joe Berger, 75.3
QB Sam Bradford, 74.4
WR Adam Thielen, 74.4

Offense doesn’t get much going against Carolina D

The Vikings had a tough time opening running lanes against a stout Carolina defense, finishing with just 58 rushing yards on 24 carries. Tackles Andre Smith and T.J. Clemmings struggled in the run game, earning run-blocking grades of 38.6 and 35.1, respectively. The offensive line was solid in pass protection, allowing just one sack and zero hits on their 30 snaps in pass protection as a group. Minnesota’s offense finished 3-for-12 on third down and produced 211 yards of total offense, but did not turn the ball over and allowed their defense to produce a win on the road.

Top defensive grades:

CB Trae Waynes, 85.8
S Harrison Smith, 84
CB Terence Newman, 82.7
DE Everson Griffen, 81.9
LB Eric Kendricks, 79.4

Defense continues to look elite

The Viking defense’ showed again it is a top NFL unit with another stellar performance against an elite-level quarterback. Many of the eight sacks can be attributed to the secondary, which was sticky in coverage all day. Waynes and Newman allowed a combined 4 catches for 40 yards and held Kelvin Benjamin to zero catches. Griffen got after the passer, consistently beating Michael Oher on the edge totaling three sacks on the day. Harrison Smith was flying around making tackles all day and posted the top run-defense grade for the Vikings, totaling six solo tackles on the day.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Vikings CB Trae Waynes, 85.8

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player through each week of the NFL season by subscribing to Player Grades.

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