The Panthers and Vikings play about every other year, aren’t division rivals and don’t have a huge history.
I do vividly remember two plays from these teams’ nine games, however. Longtime Panther fans may remember them, too.
The first one came in 2001. In the first game of his NFL career, about to touch the ball for the first time, a kick returner named Steve Smith was already angry. I know you’re stunned.
Smith told me long ago that a Vikings’ special-teamer had disrespected him before the game, referring to Smith’s college by telling him: “This ain’t Utah no more, son.”
“That was the wrong thing to say,” Smith said. The first time he touched the ball in a real NFL game, he returned it 93 yards for a touchdown. Carolina won that game and then lost the next 15 in a row. Hardly anyone from that game is still playing now. But Smith is, no longer returning kicks but leading the NFL in reception yards.
-- The other play I remember from this series came in 1997. The game was tied in the fourth quarter and Minnesota was at the Carolina 3 when Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson dropped back and threw. The ball was swatted by Panther nose tackle Greg Kragen.
End of play, right? Nope. Johnson caught the deflection and then ran into the end zone.
The official play-by-play read: “Johnson 3 pass from Johnson.” I guess fantasy footballers got double credit if they had played Johnson that day. Minnesota then won the game.
-- Panther defensive end Charles Johnson dressed up for a Halloween costume party this week as Chewbacca of “Star Wars” fame. Johnson said that the judging must have been rigged, however, because somehow his costume didn’t win.
“Chewbacca? That’s classic,” Johnson said.
-- The Panthers’ ability – or inability -- to stop Adrian Peterson will be the game’s biggest key Sunday. I think Cam Newton will outplay Christian Ponder, but that advantage could be negated if Peterson goes for 150.
-- Here's my story on Antwan Applewhite from today -- Applewhite has made a solid impact in under a month as a Panther.
-- Don’t set too much stock in my prediction. I’ve missed the Panther outcome the past two weeks in a row, dropping my record over the past 22 Carolina games to 16-6. But I think the final score Sunday will be Carolina 30, Minnesota 21.