CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With a big assist from Adrian Peterson, Christian Ponder came out on top of his rookie quarterback matchup with Cam Newton.
Peterson ran for 162 yards and two touchdowns and Ryan Longwell kicked a 31-yard field goal with 2:43 left to lift the Minnesota Vikings to a 24-21 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
Ponder completed 18 of 28 passes for 236 yards and one touchdown as the Vikings (2-6) ended a two-game losing streak.
Newton led the Panthers (2-6) back in the final two minutes, completing a 44-yard pass to Brandon LaFell on fourth-and-15, but Olindo Mare was wide left on a 31-yard field goal attempt with 26 seconds left.
Newton threw a season-best three touchdown passes, but had two fumbles on blindside hits that led to a pair of Minnesota touchdowns in the first half.
The Panthers led 21-14 after a 22-yard touchdown catch by Steve Smith with 11:07 left in the third quarter, but Carolina's offense sputtered most of the second half — going three-and-out on three straight possessions. The Vikings tied the game on a 9-yard touchdown run by Peterson, his ninth of the season.
Minnesota took the lead for good on a 13-play, 72-yard drive in the fourth quarter that took 7:10 off the clock.
Things looked dire for the Panthers, but Newton completed his long pass to LaFell to move the ball into Vikings territory. Newton then had a first down run inside the 10 called back on a holding penalty on Smith. Mare, who had connected on 13 of 15 field goals coming into the game, then shanked the kick wide left and the Vikings ran out the clock.
Smith, who came into the game leading the NFL in yards receiving, had seven catches for 100 yards.
Tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen also had touchdown catches for Carolina.