Halftime: Defensive setbacks have Vikings trailing 14-3 to Panthers
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MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings defense was supposed to be at full strength on Sunday when facing the Carolina Panthers, but returning members Chris Cook and Jamarca Sanford both had mishaps in the game's first few plays.
After linebacker Chad Greenway sacked Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to force a three-and-out, Cook was called for a defensive holding that negated the play. Prior, Sanford dropped an interception on the game's first play after quarterback Matt Cassel threw his first interception of the season on the first drive.
The Panthers dominated time of possession, much like opponents have this season, by holding the ball for 18:24 of the first 30 minutes. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes and linebacker Desmond Bishop were hurt during the first half, Bishop's return is doubtful while Rhodes already returned.
Cornerback Josh Robinson had a tumultuous season before Sunday's game, but was benched after the second drive. He had allowed the game's first touchdown to Panthers receiver Steve Smith on a 4th-and-goal attempt on their first drive. Robinson sat on the bench for all but a few plays before Rhodes came up limp and needed treatment.
The Panthers front seven came to play as the Vikings were unable to move the ball on the ground. Playing with a heavy heart after the death of his infant son this week, running back Adrian Peterson gained just 28 yards on seven carries.
Peterson finally found some room to work with on the final drive of the first half as he made a key eight-yard reception for a first down as the Vikings entered the red zone. A play later, Peterson was stripped and fumbled at the four-yard line. Receiver Jarius Wright recovered to keep possession for the field goal before halftime. Peterson has had three fumbles in the last 4.5 games.
Cassel went 15-for-19 in the first half, but one of his four incompletions went for the game's only interception so far.