3 keys to victory for the Carolina Panthers vs. Vikings in Week 6

(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports) Jeremy Chinn
(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports) Jeremy Chinn /
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Carolina Panthers
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) Derrick Brown /

Carolina Panthers must rediscover their run defense

After leading the league in just about every defensive category through the first three games, the Carolina Panthers were punched in the mouth by the Dallas Cowboys in Week 4 and are still seeing stars across the interior.

This team was drawing comparisons to the 1985 Chicago Bears, that’s how dominant the defense was. Opponents only averaged 46 rushing yards per game against a young, but stout, defensive line.

Then the Panthers gave up 245 yards on the ground to the Dallas Cowboys and followed it up with a more respectable 91 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Derrick Brown and DaQuan Jones were a revelation in the early going but ever since the second half of that Cowboys game the duo has been a non-factor in the grand scheme of things. Unable to get meaningful penetration or affect the game in any real way.

This must change against the exceedingly more dangerous rushing attack of the Minnesota Vikings.

Even without Dalvin Cook, which has become a bit of a theme in recent times, the Vikings were still able to get just about whatever they wanted in Week 5 and will look to do that again against the reeling Panthers.

The Vikings only have two wins on the year, backup Alexander Mattison was able to gain more than 100 yards in both contests.

This means that regaining that run-stuffing prowess is all the more important. Making this Vikings team one-dimensional is the best way to secure a win as Kirk Cousins is not the type of player to win a game from the pocket at this point in his career.

Shaq Thompson’s return to the lineup should do wonders for this as the linebacker was playing lights-out ball before getting injured in Week 4 and a steady presence like that at the second level should keep any long runs in check.

However, on the other side, Cook is nursing his injuries and may be on track to play on Sunday. That would be a nightmare scenario for this team to try and defend. When healthy, the Florida State product is easily one of the top-five backs in the NFL.

Containing whoever the Vikings’ No. 1 rusher is will be absolutely key to keeping this game from getting out of hand in the second half and it will prove just what this defensive line actually is. For better or worse.