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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- — Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith said he didn't come into Sunday's game expecting to be an integral part of the team's defensive pressure package.

It just turned out that way.

The six-time Pro Bowl selection had three timely sacks, including a strip-sack of rookie Bryce Young that led to a momentum-changing 51-yard fumble return for a touchdown by D.J. Wonnum and the Vikings defeated the Carolina Panthers 21-13 on Sunday for their first win of the season.

Kirk Cousins overcame two interceptions, including one that was returned 99 yards for a touchdown, and threw two touchdown passes to Justin Jefferson and the Vikings finally found some positive momentum.  


Alexander Mattison added 95 yards on the ground for Minnesota (1-3).

But it was Smith who provided the spark.

With the Vikings trailing 13-7 late in the third quarter, Smith raced in untouched on a blitz and sacked Young from behind, stripping him of the ball. The ball bounced off Young’s leg and careened further into the backfield where Wonnum scooped it up and scored.

Marcus Davenport sacked Young on third down on Carolina's next possession and Cousins found Jefferson along the left sideline for a 30-yard touchdown strike to give the Vikings a 21-13 lead on the final play of the third quarter.

The Panthers attempted to rally late, reaching the Vikings 9 with less than two minutes remaining.

But the Vikings turned to the safety blitz again and Smith sacked Young twice on the final three plays, including on fourth-and-goal at the 18, to seal the win. Minnesota finished with five sacks, all coming in the second half.

Young finished 25 of 32 for 204 yards for Carolina, falling to 0-3 as an NFL starter.

The Vikings will host the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, October 8.


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