The Minnesota Vikings dropped to 4-6 after losing at U.S Bank stadium to the Dallas Cowboys last weekend. The Vikings were on the wrong end of a 31-28 defeat to the Cowboys which snapped a three-game Vikings win streak. The offense was impressive during the loss with Kirk Cousins and company producing 28 points but the defense was less than stellar. An improvement on defense is vital for the Vikings to emerge victorious against the Carolina Panthers who are coming off of a shut-out victory over the Detroit Lions.
Minnesota Vikings Defense Must Improve in These Areas To Defeat Carolina Panthers
Have an Effective Pass Rush
Rushing the passer has been a weakpoint of the Vikings thus far this season. Minnesota only pressured Andy Dalton on four of his 34 dropbacks last Sunday and produced only one sack. Star defensive end Danielle Hunter is out for the season and Ifeadi Odenigbo has been limited in practice through Thursday. So, the Vikings may be relying on Hercules Mata’afa, Jalyn Holmes and rookie D.J. Wonnum to get pressure on Carolina’s quarterback.
Working in favor of the Vikings is the fact that Carolina’s pass protection has been inconsistent in 2020. During the Panthers three-game winning streak Teddy Bridgewater was only sacked twice. However, during their three-game losing streak the Panthers allowed eight sacks and 23 pressures. Fortunately for the Carolina Panthers, Bridgewater has been back in practice this week. If Minnesota gets to Bridgewater early and create an effective pass rush it could be a crucial factor come Sunday.
Contain the Panthers Passing Game
The Carolina Panthers have two elite wide receivers in Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore. Both rank in the top 10 in yards per game this season. Moore has become the primary deep threat this season and ranks third in yards per reception with 18.8. Anderson has 380 yards after catch through Week 12 but Minnesota also has to worry about Mike Davis in the backfield. In the absence of Christian McCaffrey, Davis has been an impressive replacement and is also a threat in the passing game.
Minnesota’s secondary has been a weakness in 2020. They improved during the team’s three-game win streak but regressed in Week 11 against Dallas. The Vikings are allowing an average of 260 passing yards per game which is the seventh worst in the league. A limited pass rush hasn’t helped the young secondary of Minnesota in 2020 and will need to improve against Carolina. Additionally, Mike Zimmer will need to implement two deep safeties to help out young corners Kris Boyd, Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney who face a tough test in trying to nullify both Anderson and Moore.
Limit Mike Davis
Carolina’s wide receivers have made big plays for the Panthers offense, but Davis has been extremely effective out of the backfield whenever McCaffrey has missed time. Davis has been effective in both the ground and passing game for Carolina this season. Through eleven games he has nearly a career high in rushing yards and a career high in receiving yards. The issue is Minnesota’s defense hasn’t impressed when defending the run. The Vikings rush defense is 22nd in rushing yards allowed per game. This was highlighted when Ezekiel Elliott had his first 100-yard game of the season last weekend at U.S. Bank stadium.
If the Minnesota Vikings defense can accomplish these goals they could emerge victorious over the Panthers this week.