Wrap-up: Vikings 24, Panthers 21

Thoughts on the Carolina Panthers24-21 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium:

What it means: The hope that the Panthers had turned the corner with last week’s win against the Redskins is gone. Carolina is right back to where it was before last week -- maybe even a couple of steps back. The Panthers played pretty well in some areas, like they did in their previous five losses, but couldn’t pull it out at the end. That’s tolerable against good teams. But nobody is accusing the Vikings of being a good team this season.

Goat of the game: The Panthers had a chance to force overtime. They moved the ball into what should have been easy field goal range for Olindo Mare. It turned out not to be so easy. Mare was wide left on a 31-yard try. Think there might be some Carolina fans longing for the days of John Kasay right about now?

Goats of the game: Just about everyone on Carolina’s defense. The Panthers have struggled defensively much of the season. But they were facing rookie quarterback Christian Ponder. They made him look like a seasoned veteran. Ponder threw for 236 yards and a touchdown and was not intercepted. The Vikings also had 132 net rushing yards.

All for naught: Carolina receiver Steve Smith continues to have a huge season. He had seven catches for 100 yards and a touchdown. But Smith isn’t the kind of guy who is content to put up big stats in losing efforts. He wants to win as much as anybody. This may sound crazy, but I’ve got a suggestion for Carolina coach Ron River: Let Smith play defense. He’ll put everything he has into it.

What’s next: The Panthers have a bye next Sunday. They resume their three-game homestand when Tennessee comes to Bank of America Stadium on Nov. 13. That’s why the loss to Minnesota hurts so badly. The Panthers could be on a two-game winning streak right now, with a chance to extend it to three coming out of the bye. Instead, they’re 2-6.