CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn has a message for Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess: You’re not that good.
Munnerlyn said the Vikings concentrated on slowing down Carolina’s No. 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who came into the game with 13 catches for 199 yards and three TDs, while largely ignoring Funchess.
Funchess couldn’t take advantage of seeing mostly single coverage. Neither he nor Benjamin recorded a catch in Carolina’s 22-10 loss to Minnesota.
“We just knew where Benjamin was the whole time,” Munnerlyn said. “Funchess, we weren’t worried about him. It was Kelvin Benjamin. I’m just going to be honest. Me personally, I don’t think he is that good, No. 17 (Funchess). So we weren’t really worried about him.”
Funchess was unavailable for comment after the game.
After a solid training camp and preseason, Funchess has struggled this season with only three catches for 28 yards and one touchdown.
The Panthers opened the game in a three-receiver set on Sunday that did not include Funchess. Ted Ginn Jr. and Philly Brown started alongside Benjamin. Ginn had three catches for 62 yards and Brown four grabs for 57 yards.
Newton sat out a play then returned and finished the game.
The league’s MVP has a chance to get back in a rhythm next Sunday when the Panthers play their first NFC South game against the Falcons, who surrendered four TD passes to the Bucs’ Jameis Winston in Week One and three to the Raiders’ Derek Carr in Week Two.
BRADFORD COMFORTABLE: Minnesota quarterback Sam Bradford is now 2-0 as the Vikings’ starter, despite getting off to a slow start against the Panthers.
Bradford was 4 of 11 for 26 yards passing over the first two quarters. But in the second half, he went 14 of 17 for 145 yards and a touchdown , a 15-yarder to Kyle Rudolph in the third quarter that put Minnesota in the lead.
“We just never really found the rhythm,” in the first half, Bradford said.
While not as impressive as his debut — 286 yards and two touchdowns in beating the Green Bay Packers last week — Zimmer is ready to say that Bradford now knows the Vikings’ offense heading into their matchup against the New York Giants.
“I think we probably need to put the whole ‘learning the offense’ thing away. He’s good to go with all that stuff,” Zimmer said.
VIKINGS GROUND GAME: The Vikings are winning despite not having much of a ground game.
They came in ranked 32nd in the league in rushing and only had 58 yards rushing against the Panthers without Adrian Peterson. Third-year pro Jerick McKinnon finished with 16 carries for 45 yards. Matt Asiata started but had just 15 yards on six carries.
“Those guys ran the ball pretty good today,” Zimmer said. “We stuck to it a little bit more in the second half. It helps take some of the pressure off of the pass rush when you can do those things.
SAFETY STREAK: Minnesota defensive end Danielle Hunter’s first-quarter sack on Newton gave the Vikings their first defensive safety in nearly five years. Hunter brought Newton down from behind for a five-yard loss with 1:44 remaining in the first quarter for the safety, Minnesota’s first since Dec. 4, 2011, during a 35-32 loss to the Denver Broncos.
“That safety that Danielle Hunter got was a big turning point in the game,” Zimmer said as it cut Carolina’s lead to 10-2.
WINNING SPECIAL TEAMS: After struggling through the first two weeks of the season, Minnesota punter Jeff Locke found his range against the Panthers. Entering Sunday’s game averaging a league-worst 38.6 yards per punt, Locke averaged 48.4 yards per on his seven punts, including a season-best 62-yarder in the first quarter.
Locke twice pinned the Panthers inside their own five-yard line with long kicks, both of which led to Vikings’ scores. The 62-yarder set up Hunter’s sack and safety, and a 58-yarder in the second quarter pinned Carolina at its own 2 in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, Carolina gave up a 54-yard punt return for a touchdown to Marcus Sherels and Graham Gano missed a 54-yard field goal.
Freelance Writer Bill Kiser contributed to this report.