Rapid Reaction: Carolina Panthers

MINNEAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Carolina Panthers' 35-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings:

What it means: This means the Panthers and quarterback Cam Newton are really good at taking advantage of bad defenses (first beating the Giants 38-0, and now beating the No. 30 Vikings). It also means the Panthers (2-3) have a chance to improve to .500 next week, something they haven't been after six games in more than four seasons. It may even mean that coach Ron Rivera is right when he says this team is close to playing winning football. The key? Can Carolina do it consistently? Stay tuned.

Stock watch: Newton talked about needing to be more consistent. On Sunday, he put action behind his words to the tune of 20-for-26 for 242 yards and three touchdowns and a career-best passer rating of 143.4. His previous best was 142.4 in 2011 against Tampa Bay. Newton started fast, going 10-for-14 for 85 yards and two touchdowns. But more impressive was how he started the second half, where he had been inconsistent in Carolina's three losses. He was 8-for-9 for 134 yards and a touchdown (155.6 rating).

Stock watch II: Linebacker Thomas Davis had one sack in the first four games. He had two on Sunday.

Riverboat gambler: Rivera took a lot of heat when he didn't gamble on fourth-and-1 from the Buffalo 20 in Week 2. He's been fearless since, going for it five times and converting on three of them. Going for it was key in giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead on their first drive Sunday. They converted twice, including a 2-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith.

No relief for A.P.: It was a heartbreaking week off the field for Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson, whose 2-year-old son died Friday. On Sunday, Carolina's defense held Petersonto 28 yards on seven carries in the first half. He broke a 31-yarder in the third quarter, but otherwise was kept in check.

Stewart watch: Running back Jonathan Stewart is eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list after this game, and by coincidence the Panthers haven't put guard Amini Silatolu (ACL) on injured reserve yet. Don't be surprised if Stewart takes that spot this week.

What's next: The Panthers return home after consecutive road games to face the St. Louis Rams. Carolina leads the series 11-8 and has won four of the past five times the teams have met.