Panthers Breeze Past Peterson, Vikings 35-10
Peterson's tumultuous week ended with a quiet Sunday because the Panthers made all the noise.
Cam Newton threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score, and the Panthers romped past the mourning running back and the Minnesota Vikings 35-10.
Peterson finished with 62 yards on 10 carries and 21 yards on three receptions, but the Vikings (1-4) didn't have much use after halftime for him. Peterson learned Friday a 2-year-old son of his died in South Dakota of injuries from alleged abuse.
"It's tough. It's a crazy situation," Peterson said. "Anytime you lose a child, no matter the circumstances, it hurts. I can't describe it. But I've got a good supporting cast."
Said Vikings coach Leslie Frazier: "I thought he handled it as well as you can."
Matt Cassel threw two interceptions, both to Mike Mitchell, and the Panthers (2-3) responded each time with a touchdown. Distracted or not, the Vikings were 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 was at his best since he was a rookie two years ago, going 20 for 26 for 242 yards without a turnover. 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, and many of the fans who spent the afternoon booing quickly bolted from their seats to try to beat traffic.
Peterson rarely found room against a defense that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher for nine straight games. He said he never had second thoughts about playing, declining again to speak specifically about his dead son.
"I just prayed and asked God to give me the strength to get through the game and remain focused and, for the most part, I did," Peterson said. "It's a terrible way to lose, but we can learn from this."
The Panthers were aided by a dropped interception attempt by Jamarca Sanford and a third-down holding penalty by Chris Cook that wiped out a sack for their first touchdown. Newton's 2-yard toss to Smith came on the second fourth-down conversion of the 9½-minute drive, a sign of trust from Rivera.
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. 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 when struggling cornerback Josh Robinson left him to play zone, and nobody came to help.
Newton found the end zone again on the next drive, a 9-yard scramble after eluding the rush.
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