Vikings coach Leslie Frazier talks with Panthers coach Ron Rivera prior to their game Sunday.
1. Hapless on third downs: The Vikings' defense has the second-worst third-down conversion rate in the league, and what happened on Sunday didn't help that statistic. Minnesota allowed Carolina to convert seven of its 12 third downs, raising opponents' third-down success rate to 49.3 percent this year. And for good measure, the Panthers converted a pair of fourth downs, throwing a touchdown to Steve Smith on a first-quarter fourth-and-2.
2. Newton in no hurry: Minnesota sacked Panthers quarterback Cam Newton just once on Sunday, as the previously erratic quarterback hit 20 of his 26 passes. For the season, the Vikings have just nine sacks, which ranks 29th in the league, and represents a stark change for a team that relies on its front four to generate consistent pressure. "It really came down to making plays, and putting people in the position to make plays," defensive end Jared Allen said. "And we aren't doing that right now."
3. QB carousel spins again? Coach Leslie Frazier said he would re-evaluate the Vikings' quarterback situation after this game, and would decide this week whether Matt Cassel will get another shot to start. The guess from here (and most corners), though, is that Josh Freeman gets the nod next Monday in New York. With an extra day to prepare, the Vikings can likely get Freeman ready, and at 1-4, their biggest priority might revolve around figuring out if they have a quarterback on their roster who can be the answer for the next few years.
4. Frazier's future: The Vikings' head coach came into 2013 in need of a successful year after the team decided to pick up his 2014 option and not offer him a contract extension, following a playoff berth in 2012. But the Vikings have started 1-4, played undisciplined football and had last-minute lapses on defense that led to decisive touchdowns in two of their first three losses. After Sunday's game, Allen said, "Guys have got to be accountable and do their job. That's not just players. That's coaches." And linebacker Chad Greenway compared the start of this season to that of the Vikings' 3-13 2011 season. Frazier has been handed a roster with some glaring holes, but most NFL teams have their warts. If the Vikings' final record even approaches their 2011 mark, it seems likely they'll be looking for a new coach.