Monday, September 26, 2016

Rookie Dak Prescott solid again, Cowboys beat Bears 31-17

Maybe the Cowboys will be OK without quarterbackTony Romo this time. The future of the Dallas running game with Ezekiel Elliott looks pretty good, too.
Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass in fellow rookie Elliott's first 100-yard game, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.
With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without the injured Romo over three seasons before the fourth-round pick showed up.
Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia's Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals for a rookie in NFL history.
"Dak's handled every opportunity he's had right from the start really, really well," coach Jason Garrett said. "No different tonight."
Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox.
Making his 27th career start for his fourth different team, Hoyer was 30 of 49 for 317 yards - a good portion of that with the game out of each late in the fourth quarter - and threw for two scores to Zach Miller.
"We haven't played a complete game," Fox said. "This week was the reverse of what we've had. We played very poorly in the first half."
Elliott finished with 140 yards on 30 carries, including a 14-yard run when he hurdled safety Chris Prosinski. The Cowboys kept giving him the ball while trying to work the clock with a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter a week after he was benched because of two fumbles in a win over Washington.
"Made a lot of good runs tonight, a lot tough runs, a lot of NFL runs," Garrett said. "He's physically tough. He's mentally tough."
It didn't even bother Prescott that Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith missed just the second game of his six-year career after his back tightened up during the week.
Prescott was 19 of 24 for 248 yards in Dallas' first home win since last year's opener, which was a week before the first of two broken left collarbones that kept Romo out of 12 games last season.
Romo is expected to miss about another month after breaking a bone in his back in the preseason.
Prescott had one of three rushing touchdowns for the Cowboys, who have seven this season after getting eight all of last year, when they finished 4-12.
Because the Bears fell behind again, they couldn't do much with the running game. They had just 15 carries for 73 yards and lost leading rusher Jeremy Langford to an ankle injury in the second half.
Owner Jerry Jones said Bryant likely has a sprained right knee after his leg bent awkwardly when the 2014 All-Pro he was tackled on his first catch early in the game. An MRI was planned this week. Bryant wasn't in the locker room when it was open to reporters after the game.
It was Chicago's first game without linebackers Danny Trevathan (sprain thumb) and Lamarr Houston (season-ending left ACL year). And the Bears struggled to slow the Cowboys, getting outgained 274-114 in the first half. Dallas had a 19-4 edge in first downs before halftime and finished with 447 yards, including 199 on the ground.
The Cowboys were on their way to a score on a fifth straight possession when Terrance Williams fumbled at the end of a 47-yard catch on the opening drive of the second half. The Bears turned that into the first of Hoyer's two TDs to Miller, a 2-yarder on fourth down to cut it to 24-10.
Prescott on finally getting his first touchdown pass: "I had a couple of close moments there earlier in the game. And then to get Dez in there, it took a lot of attempts, but it happened."
Hoyer: "One thing I will say is it's the resilience of the room to come back out down 24-3 at halftime and just keep battling. You've just got to take that and build on it, and figure out how to move the ball a little better."
Chicago S Harold Jones-Quartey left with a concussion in the first half and didn't return. ... The Cowboys lost another lineman when LG La'el Collins missed the second half with a sprained foot. Ron Leary, the starter who lost his job to Collins this season, was his replacement.

Wentz impresses again, Eagles beat Steelers 34-3

Carson Wentz threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns, a fierce defense shut down Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown and the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-3 on Sunday to remain unbeaten.
The rookie No. 2 overall pick connected with Darren Sproles on a 73-yard, catch-and-run TD and tossed a 12-yard TD pass to Jordan Matthews.
"Everyone has confidence and high expectations for themselves," Wentz said. "We're playing inspired football."
After beating the Browns and Bears in the first two games, the Eagles (3-0) proved they could compete with the big boys.
The Steelers (2-1) averaged 31 points the first two weeks and are considered Super Bowl contenders.
Pittsburgh was 19-2 against rookie quarterbacks since 2004. But Wentz is no ordinary rookie.
Everyone is jumping on the Wentz wagon in Philadelphia. And he was the No. 3 quarterback until Sam Bradford was traded to Minnesota just eight days before the season opener.
"What he's doing is special and it's a testament to his preparation and demeanor," Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said of Wentz.
Sproles finished with six catches for 128 yards and Kenjon Barner and rookie Wendell Smallwood each had their first career rushing TDs.
Roethlisberger had 257 yards passing, one interception and no TDs after tossing six in the first two games. Brown caught 12 passes for 140 yards, most of which after the outcome was decided.
"This is a very good NFC team," Roethlisberger said. "They got after us and made us one-dimensional."
THEY SAID IT: Steelers coach Mike Tomlin: "We lost just about every aspect of that one. It was a poor performance by us, and I mean all of us. It starts with me. They outcoached us. They outplayed us. They were better fundamentally. We were highly penalized. We didn't get it done and they did."
FAST START: The Eagles scored on their first drive for the third straight game. Caleb Sturgis' 29-yard FG put them up 3-0. Wentz tossed a TD pass to Matthews on the next possession to make it 10-0. Sturgis kicked a 38-yard FG on Philadelphia's third drive for a 13-3 lead.
MISSED OPPORTUNITY: After Pittsburgh's Markus Wheaton dropped a TD pass in the back of the end zone on the game's opening drive, Bennie Logan blocked Chris Boswell's 36-yard FG attempt.
INJURIES: Steelers LB Lawrence Timmons injured his left shin in the first half and was taken to a hospital for evaluation. He returned to the locker room after the game with a huge bandage on his shin. SS Robert Golden(hamstring) and LG Ramon Foster (chest) also didn't return in the second half for Pittsburgh. WR Eli Rogers injured his toe in the third quarter and didn't return. ... The Eagles were missing two starters for the second straight game: TEZach Ertz (rib) and CB Leodis McKelvin (hamstring).
BOTHERING BIG BEN: Fletcher Cox had two sacks, including one that forced a fumble recovered by Brandon Graham. Logan and Graham also had sacks as the Eagles put plenty of pressure on Roethlisberger. The Steelers allowed only two sacks in the first two games combined.
NIFTY MOVES: The speedy, elusive Sproles left Artie Burns on the ground by zig-zagging his way into the end zone after catching Wentz's pass down the right sideline near the Philadelphia 48, cutting to the middle of the field, back to the right and then scoring down the middle.
STATS: Wentz is the first rookie in NFL history without an interception in his first 100 pass attempts to begin a career. ... The Steelers are 0-9 in Philadelphia since their previous win here in 1965. ... Eagles RB Ryan Mathews carried only two times for minus-5 yards. ... Barner had 42 yards rushing, including an 8-yard TD. ... Smallwood had 79 yards rushing, including a 1-yard TD.
ANTHEM PROTEST: Jenkins and CB Ron Brooks were the only players to raise their fists during the national anthem. Last week, they were joined by DEs Marcus Smith and Steven Means.

Luck, Hilton hook up to rally Colts past Chargers 26-22

 Andrew Luck missed T.Y. Hilton on one critical play Sunday. The Colts quarterback didn't make the same mistake again.
On his second chance, Luck threw a perfect strike to Hilton with 1:17 to play, and the Pro Bowl receiver spun out of a tackle and zig-zagged 63 yards down the field to give Indianapolis a 26-22 victory over San Diego.
Just 35 seconds earlier, Luck tried the same play with Hilton on fourth-and-7 but an off-target throw forced Hilton to spin around for an 8-yard catch on fourth-and-7. The next time, Luck got it right.
"It was the same sort of play and I kind of missed him," Luck said, referring to the fourth-down throw. "So I came back to him and this time I hit him in stride."
Hilton took care of the rest.
It's the second time on Luck's home turf that he has led the Colts (1-2) to a go-ahead score in the waning seconds. But, unlike the season opener two weeks ago, the Colts recovered two fumbles in the final 62 seconds to preserve the victory.
Luck finished 24 of 37 for 331 yards with one TD and one interception to earn his 15th career come-from-behind win.
No, he wasn't flawless. But when it mattered most, Luck excelled with the two big plays to Hilton.
Philip Rivers got two chances to win it. The first ended when Pro Bowl safety Mike Adams recovered a fumble with 62 seconds left. The second ended when linebacker D'Qwell Jackson covered the bouncing ball on the Chargers' last gasp desperation play.
Rivers was 26 of 39 for 330 yards.
"You have to put teams away when you have opportunities to do it or make the plays earlier in the game," Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. "We didn't do that for four quarters. We have to make those plays."
Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa practiced in pads for the first time this week. The No. 3 overall draft pick still has not made his NFL debut. After showing up following a prolonged contract holdout, Bosa's return was set back by a hamstring injury. Now the question is how much longer will the Chargers keep him out?
Indy still hasn't started 0-3 since 2011, when Peyton Manning missed the entire season with an injured nerve. How big was this win? Since the current playoff format took effect in 1990, only five 0-3 teams have made the postseason and nobody has done it since the 1998 Buffalo Bills.
On what was supposed to be the final play of the game, the Chargers had no punt returner so they could send everyone to block Pat McAfee's kick. McAfee pooched it inside the Chargers' 20-yard line where the Colts downed it. One problem: The refs called illegal touching, giving San Diego an untimed play. Afterward, Pagano explained the Colts weren't allowed to touch it until the refs blew the ball dead.
Chargers: Rivers on the unsportsmanlike conduct call he drew after a 43-yard completion put San Diego at the Indy 6: "That's the most unfair penalty I've ever gotten. I've never gotten one like that. I've never gotten one for really doing nothing. It maybe was the cleanest thing said on that field today and he (the official) was 30 yards away. From what I hear, it looked like nothing on the TV, but I don't know."
Colts: Coach Chuck Pagano on his thoughts as Hilton broke the tackle: "Probably like you guys, too much time on the clock. If you're going to score, don't score so fast."
Chargers: Linebacker Manti Te'o came in as San Diego's leading tackler, but left in the first quarter with an Achilles tendon injury and did not return. The injury occurred when he appeared to plant his left leg while chasing Gore into the flat. McCoy said Te'o will undergo tests Monday morning to confirm the initial diagnosis.
Colts: The Colts played most of the game their regular starters on the right side of their offensive line. GuardDenzelle Good (back) was inactive and Reitz (back) left during the first half.

Chiefs get 8 turnovers, take 2 for TDs in 24-3 win over Jets

 Derrick Johnson saw everybody else picking off passes for Kansas City and decided to join the party.
Then he figured he might as well score, too.
The veteran linebacker snagged one of six interceptions thrown by Ryan Fitzpatrick, scored one of the Chiefs' two touchdowns off turnovers, and put an exclamation mark on a rather bizarre 24-3 victory over the hapless, turnover-prone New York Jets on Sunday.
"We put an emphasis on taking away the ball all the time," said Johnson, who scored his fourth career TD. "If you can get a turnover, it's a big momentum changer. And if you can score, it's even bigger."
A turnover? How about get eight.
Marcus Peters had two of the interceptions for the Chiefs (2-1), including the first of four in the fourth quarter. Johnson, Daniel Sorenson and D.J. White grabbed the others as the Jets piled up their most turnovers since setting a franchise record with 10 in a loss to the Patriots on Nov. 21, 1976.
"I'm stunned, disappointed ... mad," Jets coach Todd Bowles said. "We could have come out prepared. We could have come out and executed better. There's 50 million things when you lose and we lost. Pick any one of them."
Alex Smith was 25 of 33 for 237 yards and a touchdown for Kansas City, while Spencer Ware added 75 yards rushing. But it was the performance of the defense - and all those Jets turnovers - that helped the Chiefs bounced back from their first regular-season defeat in 12 games.
Eric Berry picked off a pass in the end zone late in the third quarter, and a fumbled kick return by the Jets' Jalin Marshall was returned 27 yards by Demetrius Harris for another score.
"I think it stemmed from practice this week," Berry said. "Everybody had a great practice. The emphasis was on finishing plays and not being too concerned with the score."
The Jets' Matt Forte, who scored three times against the Bills, was held to just 65 yards rushing, while wide receiversBrandon Marshall and Eric Decker were held in check.
But it was Fitzpatrick who was downright dismal a week after torching Buffalo, going 20 of 44 for 188 yards. His six picks tied a franchise record while establishing a career high, surpassing the five that he threw for St. Louis against Minnesota on Dec. 11, 2005.
"I've had some bad ones," he said, "so all I can do is put it behind me and move on."
Kansas City appeared to take a 24-3 lead in the third quarter when Ware stretched the ball into the pylon for a touchdown. But officials reviewed the play and saw the ball beginning to come out, and decided that it was a fumble resulting in a touchback for New York.
"You don't want them dropping the ball," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, "but it's hard to tell them not to stretch."
Things could have been worse for New York. Berry and Sorenson dropped picks moments before Sorenson hauled in his interception, and Fitzpatrick fell on his own fumble earlier in the game.
It was the second straight two-interception day for Peters, who has quickly become one of the league's top cornerbacks. He had eight as a rookie in the regular season a year ago.
"When things are happening like today," Peters said, "you enjoy. You embrace the opportunities."
Decker had his streak of touchdowns in six straight games come to an end. The Jets wide receiver, who has scored 15 times in his last 19 games, had his only catch in the fourth quarter.
Marshall was active after missing practice earlier in the week with a slightly sprained knee. But shadowed by Peters and Berry, the star wide receiver had a tough time getting open. He finished with three catches for 27 yards, on several occasions complaining about the tight coverage.
Jets: CB Darrelle Revis was evaluated for an eye injury and missed the final series of the first half. He returned after the break. ... DL Lawrence Thomas left in the first half with a shoulder injury. ... LB Erin Henderson was inactive because of a foot sprain.
Chiefs: RB Jamaal Charles (ACL surgery) remained inactive for the third straight week, but coach Andy Reid insisted the four-time Pro Bowl selection is getting closer to playing.

Russell Wilson injured in Seattle's 37-18 rout of 49ers

 Russell Wilson is already dealing with more injuries in the first three weeks of the 2016 season than the first four years of his career.
This time, the Seattle Seahawks quarterback got lucky.
Wilson threw for 243 yards and a touchdown before suffering a left knee injury and the Seattle Seahawks rolled to a 37-18 rout of the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
Wilson was injured with about 10 minutes to go in the third quarter getting pulled down awkwardly on a sack by San Francisco's Eli Harold.
Harold was called for a horse collar penalty, but the bigger concern was how he fell on Wilson's left leg.
"Fortunate. I don't think it's as severe as it looked," Wilson said.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll referred to the injury as a slight sprained knee and Wilson was set to undergo an MRI to verify the initial diagnosis.
Wilson stayed down on the field for a few moments after the injury before walking off. Wilson missed the first play of his career because of an injury, but returned almost immediately - and without perhaps the approval of his coaches - to throw one more pass.
The completion led to the third of Steven Hauschka's three field goals for a 27-3 lead and after that Wilson's day was done.
"He walked on the field on his own. You could see all the coaches we're like `Nobody told him to do that,'" wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. "But that's Russell though."
Wilson had a brace placed on his left knee, and he never saw the field again, giving the final 1 1/2 quarters of the blowout to rookie Trevone Boykin.
Wilson finished 15 of 23 passing, including an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham. Boykin also threw the first TD pass of his career, hitting Baldwin on a 16-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Baldwin had eight catches for a career-high 164 yards.
It was a big day for Seattle's offense that slogged through the first two weeks, scoring just 15 points in the first 120 minutes of the season.
The Seahawks nearly matched that total in the first 11 minutes of the game thanks to the first two touchdowns ofChristine Michael's career.
"It was amazing. I give all that to my offensive linemen," Michael said.
Getting the start with Thomas Rawls out because of a shin injury, Michael had TD runs of 41 and 4 yards on Seattle's first two drives, the first drive taking three plays and just 43 seconds. Michael rushed for 106 yards on 20 carries, the second 100-yard game of his career.
Carlos Hyde two TD runs in the fourth quarter for San Francisco, but the 49ers had just five first downs entering the fourth quarter and missed on their first 10 third-down attempts. Blaine Gabbert's streak of 12 straight games with a touchdown pass ended as he was 14 of 25 for 119 yards and an interception.
"We knew we were going against the most talented group defensively we were going to face and knew it was our job specially to convert on third down and we didn't do that," San Francisco coach Chip Kelly said.
The knee injury for Wilson comes on top of the Seattle quarterback suffering a sprained right ankle in the opener against Miami . Wilson never missed a snap against the Dolphins and played the entire game last week against Los Angeles, although his mobility was limited. Wilson appeared to have better movement on Sunday, but had only one official run for 3 yards.
Seattle may not have wanted a bye in Week 5, but it could end up being critical for the health of its quarterback.
Seattle had not allowed a 100-yard rusher in the previous 24 games, a streak that dated to Week 11 of the 2014 season when Kansas City's Jamaal Charles topped the 100-yard mark.
Hyde finally snapped Seattle's streak when he topped 100 yards on his final carry, an 8-yard TD run with 56 seconds left. Hyde finished with 103 yards.
Graham seems fully back from the torn patellar tendon suffered last November. The athletic tight end had six catches for 100 yards and a touchdown in the first half on Sunday for Seattle.
Graham's score was his first TD since Sept. 27, 2015. He later wrestled a 40-yard jump ball away from safety Eric Reid that set up a field goal. Graham also had an 18-yard catch to convert third-and-15 in the first quarter.
It was his second 100-yard receiving game since joining Seattle via trade before last season.
San Francisco lost two key players in the first half. Tight end Vance McDonald suffered a hip injury in the second quarter and did not return. And starting cornerback Jimmy Ward injured his quadriceps covering a kickoff in the second quarter and also did not return.
The loss of McDonald was compounded when backup Garrett Celek was hit the back by Kam Chancellor on the first possession of the second half. Celek returned later in the third quarter.

Rams weather delay, hold off Buccaneers 37-32

Turns out the offensively challenged Los Angeles Rams are capable of getting the ball in the end zone.
Case Keenum threw for the team's first touchdown since relocating back to Los Angeles, and Todd Gurley rushed for two more scores Sunday in a 37-32 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Rams (2-1), who did not have TD in the first two games of the season, also scored on Ethan Westbrooks' 77-yard fumble return and Tavon Austin's 43-yard reception in the fourth quarter before thunder and lightning caused a 69-minute weather delay with two minutes remaining.
" When you score points, which we did, you've got a chance," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said.
The Rams, who used three field goals to beat Seattle 9-3 in Week 2, saw Keenum complete 14 of 25 passes for 190 yards, two TDs and one interception, which Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander returned 38 yards for a first-quarter touchdown. In addition to throwing a TD pass to Austin for a late 11-point lead, he got the Rams on track early with his 44-yard scoring pass to Brian Quick for the franchise's first TD as the L.A. Rams since 1994.
"Anytime you can get out there and have success early, it kind of settles you down as an offense," Keenum said.
The defense did its part, too, holding off Jameis Winston's bid to rally the Bucs (1-2) in the closing seconds.
Tampa Bay forced a punt after the lightning delay and drove from its 44 to the Rams 15 in 1:42 before Winston threw two incompletions and was tackled by Robert Quinn after a 10-yard run on the final play. Winston looked tentative and never really took off full-speed on the play, instead apparently still hoping to throw the ball after he crossed the line scrimmage.
"I was just trying to bait them, get closer to the end zone," Winston said. "At that moment I've got to give somebody a chance in the end zone."
Winston threw for 405 yards and three TDs for Tampa Bay (1-2). He threw an interception that set up one of Gurley's two 1-yard touchdown runs, and was stripped by the Quinn on the fumble that Westbrooks returned up the left sideline for a 31-20 lead.
Mike Evans' 7-yard TD reception trimmed Tampa Bay's deficit to 37-32 with 2:15 remaining.
"I'm confident in my defense. It's the best defense in the league, and I believe that," Keenum said. "I had no doubts they were going to stop them."
Officials suspended play during the two-minute warning with the Rams facing third-and-11 from their 5. Fans were asked to clear the stands and seek coverage in stadium concourses before the approaching thunderstorm passed directly over the field, dumping heavy rain.
The Rams scored their first touchdown of the season, driving 75 yards on eight plays following the opening kickoff to take a 7-0 lead on Keenum's 44-yard pass to Quick just over three minutes into the game. Gurley's TD, set up by ex-Buc Mark Barron's interception and 7-yard return to the Tampa Bay 22, trimmed Tampa Bay's lead to 20-17 just before halftime. With Tampa Bay driving for a possible go-ahead score in the fourth quarter, Quinn's sack/strip led to Westbrooks' fumble return. It was the NFL-leading 18th fumble Quinn has forced since entering the league in 2012.
With RB Doug Martin sidelined with a hamstring injury, Charles Sims made his first NFL pro start for the Bucs and rushed for 55 yards on 13 attempts. The third-year pro, who has been a key component of Tampa Bay's passing game since Winston joined the team, also had six receptions for 69 yards.
The Bucs unveiled a new video board system as part of a $140 million renovation of Raymond James Stadium. The system features two 9,600 square-foot boards on the north and south ends of the stadium, as well as four 2,300 square-foot tower walls. With more than 31,000 square feet of combined video display space, the team says it the third-largest video board system in the NFL.
Evans had 10 receptions for 132 yards and became the first player in Bucs history to catch a TD pass in three consecutive games to start a season. WR Adam Humphries finished with nine receptions for a career-best 100 yards, and TE Cameron Brate had TD receptions of 3 and 1 yards.

Vikings stop Newton, snap Panthers' home win streak 22-10

The Minnesota Vikings keep finding ways to overcome injuries -and keep finding ways to win football games.
Sam Bradford threw a touchdown pass to Kyle RudolphMarcus Sherelsreturned a punt for a score and the Vikings snapped the Carolina Panthers' 14-game home winning streak 22-10 on Sunday.
The Vikings put the clamps on Cam Newton, intercepting the league's reigning MVP three times and getting eight sacks, one of those resulting in a safety by Danielle Hunter. The eight sacks were the second-most ever against Newton.
"We have a great team - the best team I have been a part of," said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who had three sacks. "We come from every area on the field and we get sacks."
Said Newton: "They were dictating to us after they got the momentum."
The Vikings improved 3-0 despite losing running back Adrian Peterson and offensive tackle Matt Kalil to injuries last week. They lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason.
The Panthers were averaging 42 points per game in their last three home games, but could do little after bolting to a 10-0 lead. The Vikings held Carolina wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess without a catch.
"For him not to have any touches is baffling," Newton said of Benjamin. "We have to find ways" to get him the ball.
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said the Vikings focus was on shutting down Benjamin.
"We just knew where Benjamin was the whole time," Munnerlyn said. "Funchess, we weren't worried about him. It wasKelvin Benjamin. Me personally, I think No. 17 (Funchess) is not that good, so we weren't really worried about him."
Benjamin said the Vikings' pressure on Newton helped take him out of the game.
Bradford improved to 2-0 as the Vikings starter, completing 18 of 28 passes for 171 yards. With Peterson injured, Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon combined for 70 yards rushing on 22 carries. Rudolph had seven catches for 70 yards, including a 15-yard TD catch to put the Vikings ahead for good in the early in the third quarter.
HOME LOSS: It was Carolina's first home loss since Nov. 16, 2014.
"If you want to be a playoff team you have to win at home," Panthers offensive tackle Michael Oher said.
Carolina only led 10-8 at halftime despite outgaining the Vikings 205-34 in the first half and limiting Minnesota to two first downs.
PROTESTS OUTSIDE: Outside the stadium about 100 people gathered before the game to stage a peaceful protest over the police shooting of a 43-year-old black man last week.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the events didn't affect the team's play.
"When we are here, we practice, we do the things we are supposed to do. We got out and we answered the questions," Rivera said. "What happened here was very tragic, and what we were hoping to do was be able to come out and put that aside. We just didn't play very well. I am not looking for excuses."
Vikings: Asiata got the start at running back but McKinnon was more productive back with 45 yards on 16 carries.
Panthers: Cameron Artis-Payne started over Fozzy Whittaker with Jonathan Stewart (hamstring) out of the lineup and ran for 47 yards on 12 carries. Whittaker only got five carries and had 22 yards rushing after running for 100 yards last week against San Francisco.
SAFETY FIRST: Hunter beat Michael Oher to sack Newton in the end zone in the first quarter for Minnesota's first safety since Jared Allen had one on Dec. 4, 2011. Hunter has 6 1/2 sacks in his last seven games.
SHERELS RETURN: Sherels accounted for the Vikings only touchdown of the first half, taking an Andy Lee punt near midfield and cutting across the grain for a 54-yard touchdown return.
BENJAMIN'S BLUNDERS: Benjamin was called for two penalties in the first half, including a block in the back that nullified a 56-yard TD reception by Whittaker.
INJURIES: Panthers first-round draft pick Vernon Butler left the game with a right ankle sprain in the third quarter and did not return.

Siemian's 4 TD passes lead Broncos over Bengals 29-17

 Four touchdown passes, more than 300 yards passing, two clutch touchdown drives in the fourth quarter.
Trevor Siemian played every bit like Peyton Manning in his first road start.
In some ways, even better.
Siemian was nearly perfect as he rallied the Denver Broncos to a 29-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, leading a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives with veteran aplomb.
The defending Super Bowl champions' biggest offseason challenge was replacing their famous quarterback, and it looks as if they made the right choice. They're 3-0 under Siemian, who took over after Manning retired andBrock Osweiler went to Houston.
Siemian became the first Bronco to throw for four touchdowns since Manning in 2014 against the Dolphins. No NFL quarterback had thrown for 300 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in their road debut, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
"Obviously going in, nobody really knew about him," said Emmanuel Sanders, who caught the first two touchdowns. "Now everybody's starting to talk about him. He's always calm, cool and collected, even in the fourth quarter. You should have seen the way he took command in the huddle."
Trailing at the start of the fourth quarter, Siemian completed 11 of 12 passes while rallying the Broncos to those fourth-quarter touchdowns. He finished 23 of 35 for 312 yards and a passer rating of 132.1.
"I'm still learning a lot," Siemian said. "There are a couple of plays I'd like to do over again."
Siemian had a 41-yard touchdown pass to Sanders to get it started, and stood in under a heavy rush and connected with Demaryius Thomas on a 55-yard score with 4:23 left to clinch it. Sanders finished with nine catches for 117 yards.
The Bengals got their dormant running game going, but were still out of sync as they fell to 1-2 for the first time in five years. Jeremy Hill ran for a pair of touchdowns and 97 yards - huge strides for Cincinnati's pass-heavy offense - but Andy Dalton couldn't do much after the Bengals fell behind.
"We're still trying to find ourselves," said receiver A.J. Green, who had eight catches for 77 yards but dropped a pivotal third-down pass. "We've got to be more consistent."
Broncos safety T.J. Ward hurt his neck late in the first quarter but returned. The Broncos were already missing safetyJustin Simmons. ... Bengals kicker Mike Nugent suffered a shoulder injury while helping to make a tackle during a kickoff return in the second quarter but later made a field goal.
After two games of getting virtually nothing out of their running game, the Bengals made it a point of emphasis and got immediate results. Hill, who had a total of 53 yards in the first two games, broke off a 50-yard run on Cincinnati's opening possession - his longest run since 2014. He capped the drive with a 3-yard TD run, giving the Bengals a season high in rushing after one series. Denver clamped down the rest of the way.
The Bengals are 6-4 in their past nine games at Paul Brown Stadium, including a first-round playoff loss to Pittsburgh.
Ward raised his right fist during the anthem, the first time he's made such a gesture. Brandon Marshall again went to his knee behind the front line of players.
The Broncos switched their offensive line, with Ty Sambrailo starting at right tackle in place of Donald Stephenson, who has a strained calf. Sambrailo got called for holding late in the first half, but Siemian had enough time for his big game. He was sacked only twice.
Bengals right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi got to block Von Miller, who was a teammate at Texas A&M for one season. In his third NFL start, Ogbuehi - a first-round pick last season - got caught holding the Super Bowl MVP once and gave up one of Denver's four sacks.
The Broncos play at Tampa Bay next Sunday.
The Bengals have a quick turnaround, getting ready to host the Dolphins on Thursday night.
Broncos: "That's what we've been waiting for man. That's a huge step forward for our team to do that on the road against a playoff team." - cornerback Chris Harris Jr.
Bengals: "It's still early. There's a lot to be accomplished." - Andy Dalton.