Newton had six turnovers in their first four games, but a near-helpless Vikings defense failed to force any after totaling 12 over the first four games.
Peterson talked Friday about turning to football for relief from sorrow, as he's done several times over a life filled with adverse events, but this couldn't have been any fun. He rarely found room against a defense that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher for nine straight games.
Peterson said he never had second thoughts about playing and declined to talk specifically about the relationship he had with his son.
"I just prayed and asked God to give me the strength to get through the game and remain focused and, for the most part, I did," Peterson said. "It's a terrible way to lose, but we can learn from this and make some corrections."
With Josh Freeman watching on the sideline, Cassel kept the job over Christian Ponder, but struggled this time. Cassel went 32 for 44 for 241 yards and a late scoring pass to Kyle Rudolph.
Ponder's biggest problem was turnovers, so when Cassel threw for 248 yards and two touchdowns without a giveaway last game while Ponder sat out because of a broken rib, a permanent change appeared inevitable. After three early completions for first downs, Cassel was hit as he threw and sailed a pass over the head of Greg Jennings right to Mitchell for an easy interception.
Then the Panthers went the other way in 15 plays for a touchdown, aided by a dropped pick-off attempt by Jamarca Sanford and a third-down holding penalty by Chris Cook that wiped out a sack. Newton and the Panthers drained 9½ minutes off the clock on that drive, converting two fourth downs, including the 2-yard toss to Smith.
Newton then used a shovel pass to feed fullback Tolbert, who barged through the middle of Minnesota's defense for a 10-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead. The Vikings lost linebacker Desmond Bishop on that drive to a right knee injury, and he didn't return.
Any hope the Vikings had of a comeback crumbled in the opening minute of the second half. LaFell was wide open as he sprinted untouched along the sideline in an apparent coverage mix-up.
Newton found the end zone again on the next drive, a 9-yard scramble after eluding the rush.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org
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