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Key player

Safety Harrison Smith

For the first time in his 12-year NFL career, Smith had three sacks — and the Vikings needed each one during Sunday's 21-13 win at Carolina. All came after halftime. He poked the ball out of Panthers quarterback Bryce Young's hands in the third quarter, leading to edge rusher D.J. Wonnum's fumble return for a score. Smith finished the game with two more sacks on the final drive. He closed the door on fourth down by beating Panthers left tackle Ikem Ekwonu around the edge and taking down Young. Many of Smith's team-leading 14 tackles (eight solo) were around the line of scrimmage.

Key play

Wonnum's 51-yard fumble return for a touchdown

Smith remained a fixture in defensive coordinator Brian Flores' blitz schemes. He went untouched while rushing off right tackle when he poked the ball out of Young's hands. Wonnum and linebacker Jordan Hicks formed a convoy that returned the ball 51 yards for the Vikings' first defensive touchdown since Nov. 13, 2022, in Buffalo. Wonnum's scoop and score gave the Vikings a 14-13 lead late in the third quarter.

Key number


The Vikings offense wasn't particularly sharp. With two turnovers and two three-and-out drives, it also didn't get very many plays. But quarterback Kirk Cousins took just four hits — an 18% rate that matches his season low — and that marks progress behind an offensive line that remained the same. Guard Dalton Risner, who signed for $2.25 million guaranteed last month, watched from the sideline as Ed Ingram and Ezra Cleveland played the entire game. One of the hits by Panthers defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos proved costly. Gross-Matos beat Ingram and hit Cousins' arm, leading to the pop fly and interception in the second quarter. It was the Vikings' 11th turnover of the season.

Up next

vs. Kansas City, Oct. 8, 3:25 p.m. (CBS)

Reigning NFL MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs and maybe Taylor Swift come to U.S. Bank Stadium. Kansas City (2-1), which plays Sunday night against the Jets, has won back-to-back games since losing the season opener to Detroit.

2023 schedule and results

Sept. 10: L, 20-17 vs. Tampa Bay
Sept. 14: L, 34-28 at Philadelphia
Sept. 24: L, 28-24 vs. L.A. Chargers
Oct. 1: W, 21-13 at Carolina
Oct. 8: vs. Kansas City
Oct. 15: at Chicago
Oct. 23: vs. San Francisco
Oct. 29: at Green Bay
Nov. 5: at Atlanta
Nov. 12: vs. New Orleans
Nov. 19 at Denver
Nov. 27 vs. Chicago
Dec. 10: at Las Vegas
TBA: at Cincinnati
Dec. 24: vs. Detroit
Dec. 31: vs. Green Bay
TBA: at Detroit