Special teams lift Vikings past Panthers

Minneapolis, MN (SportsNetwork.com) - The Minnesota Vikings waited 18 years and 453 games to post a blocked punt return touchdown.

They had two of them Sunday.

Adam Thielen and Everson Griffen scooped up blocked punts and returned them for scores as the Vikings defeated the Carolina Panthers 31-13 on Sunday afternoon.

It was Minnesota's first blocked punt return touchdown since Issiac Holt recorded one against the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 12, 1986.

Thielen's 30-yard return in the first quarter was the longest blocked punt return touchdown in Vikings history, but that mark was short-lived.

Griffen's 43-yard return in the second established the new record.

"I thought our special teams played great today," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "We blocked two punts for touchdowns, fifth time in NFL history, first time in Vikings history."

The last time an NFL team scored on two blocked punts in a game was on Sept. 30, 1990, when the Kansas City Chiefs did it against the Cleveland Browns.

"Both of them were individual breakdowns," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said of the blocked punts.

Teddy Bridgewater was 15-of-21 for 138 yards with two touchdowns, while Greg Jennings caught five passes for 45 yards and a score for the Vikings (5-7), who have won three of their last five games.

Minnesota won despite totaling just 210 yards of offense.

The Panthers were a 1-3 team last season when they came to Minnesota. They beat the Vikings to begin an eight-game winning streak and went on to win the NFC South and claim the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

The script didn't produce the same result, however, as Carolina trailed 14-0 early and never really got back in it.

Cam Newton completed 18-of-35 passes for 194 yards with a touchdown and an interception for Carolina, which is 1-8-1 since beginning the season 2-0.

The Panthers, though, are still just 1 1/2 games behind New Orleans in the up- for-grabs NFC South.

Bridgewater found Kyle Rudolph in the right flat to cap Minnesota's opening six-play, 45-yard drive, and Thielen's score came after Carolina's ensuing possession.

Thielen burst through the line and blocked Brad Nortman's kick before scampering in for his touchdown to make it 14-0.

The Panthers' next 14-play sequence, which took 6:23 off the clock, stalled in the red zone and Graham Gano booted a 30-yard field goal late in the first to get them on the board.

Jasper Brinkley blocked Nortman after Carolina's next march, and Griffen scooped it up and raced into the end zone to increase the Minnesota margin to 21-3.

Gano answered the score with a 35-yard field goal, but Bridgewater flipped a 17-yard TD pass to Jennings in the waning seconds of the first half to give the Vikings a 28-6 cushion heading into the locker room.

Newton hit Philly Brown deep over the middle for a 32-yard touchdown on Carolina's first touch of the second half, but the Panthers never cut into the deficit further.

Blair Walsh's 39-yard field goal early in the fourth capped the scoring.

Game Notes

Carolina tallied 348 yards, outgaining Minnesota by 138 ... The Panthers were 7-of-16 on third down, while the Vikings finished 4-of-11 ... Carolina picked up 23 first downs, while Minnesota moved the chains 12 times.